If Your Bank Account Is at Risk, Act Fast

Margarette Burnette
By Margarette Burnette 
Edited by Amy Hubbard

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Maybe you saw a suspicious charge on your bank statement. Or your debit card is missing from your wallet. If you believe your account is at risk, you need to act fast. Your money could be in jeopardy.

According to a 2015 American Bankers Association survey, banks lost nearly $2 billion to deposit account fraud the year before. The recent Equifax data breach highlights how consumer information is vulnerable and how that could put your financial accounts in danger. When faced with a compromised account, consumers can protect themselves by acting quickly in the short term and diligently in the long term.

1. Report possible fraud within 2 business days

The clock starts ticking as soon as you realize there’s a problem. If you report a possibly stolen debit card within two business days of discovering it missing, the most you could be responsible for if someone makes unauthorized transactions is $50, according to the the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

But if you procrastinate beyond two days, you could lose up to $500 of your money. If you see unauthorized transactions on your bank statement, the window for reporting it to your bank is 60 days after the statement is sent to you. After that, you could lose all that was stolen from your main account and any linked accounts, with no reimbursement from your bank.

Debit card protections aren’t as strong as those covering credit cards, where potential losses are capped at $50.

2. If money has been stolen, contact authorities and close your account

File a police report, and then contact your financial institution to shut down the compromised account. Your bank or credit union can help you transfer remaining funds into a new bank account, with a different account number and debit card. Be sure to keep records for your old account in a safe place.

3. Check your credit report for new accounts

Checking account activity doesn’t typically show up on a credit report, but an identity thief could try to open a new account in your name. The crook could then overdraw the account, leaving behind debts that eventually are reported to credit bureaus.

To help counter this, check your credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com and resolve to monitor them at least once a year. If you see evidence of fraud, such as an account opened in your name without your permission, notify the credit bureau and the financial institutions involved, says David Pommerehn, senior counsel at the Consumer Bankers Association in Washington, D.C.

4. Learn how to protect future account information

After an account breach, your financial institution should restore your lost money quickly. But getting your money back and a new debit card, or even closing your compromised account, doesn’t mean your financial safety is assured. There may be long-term issues. A thief could share your personal identifiable information with other criminals who might try to access your accounts or open new ones. Take these steps to protect your information:

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