(Fraudulent Checks and Other “Paper” Transactions) If an identity thief steals your checks or counterfeits checks from your existing bank account, then stop payment, close the account, and ask your bank to notify ChexSystems, Inc. or the check verification service with which it does business. That way, retailers can be notified not to accept these checks. While no federal law limits your losses if someone uses your checks with a forged signature, or uses another type of “paper” transaction such as a demand draft, state laws may protect you.
Most states hold the bank responsible for losses from such transactions. At the same time, most states require you to take reasonable care of your account. For example, you may be held responsible for the forgery if you fail to notify the bank in a timely manner that a check was lost or stolen. Contact your state banking or consumer protection agency for more information. You can contact major check verification companies directly for the following services: To request that they notify retailers who use their databases not to accept your checks, call:
TeleCheck at 1-800-710-9898 or 1-800-927-0188
Certegy, Inc. (previously Equifax Check Systems) at 1-800-437-5120
To find out if the identity thief has been passing bad checks in your name, call: SCAN: 1-800-262-7771
(Fraudulent Electronic Withdrawals) The Electronic Fund Transfer Act provides consumer protections for transactions involving an ATM or debit card, or another electronic way to debit or credit an account. It also limits your liability for unauthorized electronic fund transfers. You have 60 days from the date your bank account statement is sent to you to report in writing any money withdrawn from your account without your permission. This includes instances when your ATM or debit card is “skimmed”- that is, when a thief captures your account number and PIN without your card having been lost or stolen. If your ATM or debit card is lost or stolen, report it immediately because the amount you can be held responsible for depends on how quickly you report the loss. If you report the loss or theft within two business days of discovery, your losses are limited to $50. If you report the loss or theft after two business days, but within 60 days after the unauthorized electronic fund transfer appears on your statement, you could lose up to $500 of what the thief withdraws. If you wait more than 60 days to report the loss or theft, you could lose all the money that was taken from your account after the end of the 60 days.
Note: VISA and MasterCard voluntarily have agreed to limit consumers’ liability for unauthorized use of their debit cards in most instances to $50 per card, no matter how much time has elapsed since the discovery of the loss or theft of the card.
The best way to protect yourself in the event of an error or fraudulent transaction is to call the financial institution and follow up in writing by certified letter, return receipt requested so you can prove when the institution received your letter. Keep a copy of the letter you send for your records. After receiving your notification about an error on your statement, the institution generally has 10 business days to investigate. The institution must tell you the results of its investigation within three business days after completing it and must correct an error within one business day after determining that it occurred. If the institution needs more time, it may take up to 45 days to complete the investigation but only if the money in dispute is returned to your account and you are notified promptly of the credit. At the end of the investigation, if no error has been found, the institution may take the money back if it sends you a written explanation.