2013-01-03 / Columns

Everyday Extension

Protecting your debit account from fraudulent activity
By Acacia Stuckle Extension Agent, Emmons and Kidder Counties acacia.stuckle@ndsu.edu • 701-254-4811

“Are you in New York? Your debit card had over $1,800 in purchases yesterday from various locations in NewYork,” said the customer service representative in a phone call to my sister.

My sister was not in New York, so this was alarming news. Someone had stolen her debit card information and was using it fraudulently to make purchases. She immediately cancelled the card, but what about the $1,800 in purchases?

The Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) was designed to protect against loss when fraudulent account transfers are made and when cards are lost or stolen. Your liability under federal law for unauthorized use of your ATM or debit card depends on how quickly you report the loss.

If you report the card missing before it is used without permission, you are not responsible for any unauthorized transfers. If you report the loss within two business days after you realize the card is missing, you will not be responsible for more than $50. But if you don’t report the loss, you could lose up to $500. Your loss can be unlimited if you fail to report an unauthorized transfer within 60 days after a statement showing it is sent. In other words, if you do not check your monthly statement and report the unauthorized use, you could lose everything in your account!

Your account contract or terms may limit liability even more than federal law. Some cards offer “zero liability” in case of fraud, theft or other unauthorized use if you report it within two business days after you discover it. Although your loss may be limited by law when fraud occurs, the money already has come out of your account and setting the record straight may take time.

Here are some tips for protecting your debit account.

• Make sure you know exactly what to do if your debit card is lost or stolen.

• Keep a record of your account numbers and telephone numbers in a safe place separate from your cards to be ready to report a loss quickly.

• Know where your card is at all times.

• Memorize your PIN. Never keep the printed number with the card!

• Keep your PIN a secret. Never share your number or let someone near see you key it into the keypad.

• Don’t choose a PIN number that anyone could figure out, such as a birthday or phone number.

• Be cautious about using your account number on the phone or Internet.

• Don’t give your PIN to anyone on the phone.

• Don’t use an ATM if it looks suspicious.

• Be wary of those trying to help you if a machine “eats” your card.

• Draw a line through blank spaces on receipts above the total so the amount cannot be changed.

• Don’t sign a blank debit receipt slip.

• Tear up carbons or duplicate copies of receipts and dispose of them carefully.

• Cut up old cards.

• Carry cards only when you’ll need them.

Fortunately, my sister’s card issuer covered all of the fraudulent charges. Be sure to check with your card issuer to see what steps you need to follow if your information is stolen. For additional information on using debit and ATM cards, stop by our office for NDSU Extension Publication FE-1403 “Debit and ATM Cards: Using them wisely.”

Please contact me with any questions at 254-4811 or email acacia.stuckle@ndsu.edu. Don’t forget to “Like” NDSU Extension Service – Emmons County on Facebook!

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