What Happens If Someone Debits Your Bank Account Without Permission?

Banks have security procedures to prevent unauthorized users from debiting your bank account. You also have a responsibility as the account holder to protect your private information from falling into the wrong hands. If someone does happen to debit your bank account without your permission, you have ways to resolve the situation.

Figure Out What Happened

The starting point is to understand the various ways that unauthorized parties can gain access to the funds in a bank account. This will give some clues as to what has happened.

For example, you may have accidentally disclosed your bank details to a scammer, you may be the victim of a phishing scam, you card may have been cloned, or someone may have stolen your identity. Some of these matters may require a criminal investigation alongside a bank investigation.

Ways an Account is Compromised

Generally, to debit a bank account in person, an individual needs the full account number along with identification matching the name and address on the account. Another way that the individual can debit the account is if he gains access to the debit card and PIN associated with the card. In some cases, unauthorized users can debit the account without the PIN if a retailer allows him to process the card as a credit card transaction.

One other way for the individual to debit the account is if he has the online log-in information for the bank account. He can process a bill pay transaction (if available) or process a transfer to send a payment to himself. Some scammers get bank account information using phishing scams, which trick account holders into entering bank account information into a spoof website.

Report Fraud to the Bank

When an unauthorized person debits your bank account, you should report the fraud to the bank within ​two days​ of the offense. You could be held liable for up to ​$50​ in charges if you don't delay in reporting the problem. Otherwise, you could even be liable for up to all money lost depending on how long you wait to report the fraud.

After those two days, the amount of liability increases to as much as ​$500​. After ​60 days​, the bank could choose to hold you liable for the full amount of the charges. Monitor your account regularly and report a problem to your bank as soon as you notice a transaction that you didn't authorize.

Await the Bank Investigation

After you report the fraud, the bank or credit union will initiate an investigation of the charges or withdrawals. As the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reports, the bank generally has ​10 days​ to investigate the complaint.

What happens next depends on the result of the investigation. If the bank concludes that the funds were taken by an unauthorized individual, it must reimburse the funds to the account within ​one business day​. You should receive a report of the bank's findings within ​three business days​.

If the bank needs more time to investigate, it must issue a temporary credit to your account for the amount withdrawn (minus up to ​$50​ in charges) while it continues to investigate. The bank must resolve the issue in ​45 days​.

Things to Consider

If you know the person who debited the bank account without your permission, that complicates matters. If you willingly gave the person access to the card and PIN for your bank card or provided the person with your bank account number, you could be held liable for those charges.