We’ve all been there: that moment when you reach into your wallet, expecting to feel the familiar, smooth edge of your debit card, only to find that it’s not where you thought it was. Realizing that you have a stolen debit card is a scary event that can have serious financial consequences, but with some foresight, you’ll know what to do if someone steals your debit card — and how to prevent it from happening in the first place.
Before Anything Happens: Set Up Alerts for Your Account
A good way to protect yourself proactively is by setting up automatic alerts on your bank account. Your bank may offer a service where they send you a text whenever there is activity on your debit card. If you don’t want a message for every transaction, you can also set up specific warnings, such as an alert for any purchase or withdrawal over $100. This way, you get an automatic notice without having to log into your online bank account.
If, despite your precautions, you discover that someone has made transactions with your stolen debit card, following these four steps will help you protect yourself and minimize your risk.
Step 1: Contact Your Bank Immediately
All debit cards have liability protection for loss and theft; however, the protection only applies if you report the stolen debit card to your bank, and the faster you react, the more protection you’ll have.
According to the FTC, if you report the theft before the thieves make unauthorized charges, you won’t be liable for any future losses. If the thieves make charges on your card, and you report it within two days of learning about the theft, your maximum liability is $50.
If you wait between three and 60 days to report the fraudulent charges after you see them, your maximum liability is $500. If you do not report the theft within 60 days of receiving your statement, you have no protection and are responsible for all losses.
Most banks have a 24/7 hotline and online self-services to report lost and stolen debit cards. If you report the fraud when it happens, rather than waiting for regular business hours, you could save yourself some money.
Step 2: Write Your Bank a Certified Letter or Email
You want to have written documentation, sending your bank an email or a certified letter is a good next step. Your letter should include the following information:
- When your debit card was stolen and/or when you noticed the card was missing
- When you first notified your bank of the fraudulent charges
- A list of the fraudulent charges
Ask them to respond so you’ll have confirmation of your liability protection.
Step 3: Keep a Close Eye on Your Bank Statements
After the theft, keep an eye on your bank account to see if any more unauthorized charges come up. The bank should cancel your old debit card once you report the fraud and issue you a new one, but it’s better to be safe. If you notice more unauthorized activity, contact your bank immediately.
Step 4: Consider Identity Theft Protection
An identity is stolen every two seconds, and thieves can use information from your debit card to steal your identity. Signing up for an identity protection service like InfoArmor can provide you with valuable protection. They actively monitor your credit and identity to detect and intercept fraud before it happens. If your identity is ever stolen, they include up to $1 million of identity theft insurance to help protect you against the financial impact of identity theft, such as legal fees and lost wages.
When you realize that your debit card has been stolen, it can be hard not to panic, but if you follow these steps, you’ll be able to minimize your financial risk and protect your well-earned money.