What To Do
If They're Lost or Stolen
Many people find it easy and convenient to use
credit and ATM cards. The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) and the
Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) offer procedures for you and
businesses to use if your cards are lost or stolen.
Limiting Your Financial
Report the loss or theft of your credit and ATM cards to the card
issuers as quickly as possible. Many companies have toll-free numbers and
24-hour service to deal with such emergencies. It's a good idea to follow
up your phone calls with a letter. Include your account number, when you
noticed your card was missing, and the date you first reported the
You also may want to check your homeowner's insurance policy to see if
it covers your liability for card thefts. If not, some insurance companies
will allow you to change your policy to include this protection.
- Credit Card Loss. If you report the loss before the
cards are used, the FCBA says the card issuer cannot hold you
responsible for any unauthorized charges. If a thief uses your cards
before you report them missing, the most you will owe for unauthorized
charges is $50 per card. This is true even if a thief uses your credit
card at an ATM machine to access your credit card
However, it's not enough simply to report your credit
card loss. After the loss, review your billing statements carefully. If
they show any unauthorized charges, send a letter to the card issuer
describing each questionable charge. Again, tell the card issuer the
date your card was lost or stolen and when you first reported it to
them. Be sure to send the letter to the address provided for billing
errors. Do not send it with a payment or to the address where you send
your payments unless you are directed to do so.
- ATM Card Loss. If you report an ATM card missing
before it's used without your permission, the EFTA says the card
issuer cannot hold you responsible for any unauthorized withdrawals. If
unauthorized use occurs before you report it, the amount you can be held
liable for depends upon how quickly you report the loss. For example, if
you report the loss within two business days after you realize your card
is missing, you will not be responsible for more than $50 for
However, if you don't report the loss within
two business days after you discover the loss, you could lose up to $500
because of an unauthorized withdrawal. You risk unlimited loss if
you fail to report an unauthorized transfer or withdrawal within 60 days
after your bank statement is mailed to you. That means you could lose
all the money in your bank account and the unused portion of your line
of credit established for overdrafts.
transactions show up on your bank statement, report them to the card
issuer as quickly as possible. Once you've reported the loss of your ATM
card, you cannot be held liable for additional amounts, even if more
unauthorized transactions are made.
The best protections against card fraud are to know where your cards
are at all times and to keep them secure. For ATM card protection, it's
important to keep your Personal Identification Number (PIN) a secret.
Don't use your address, birthdate, phone or social security number.
Memorize the number. Statistics show that in one-third of ATM card frauds,
cardholders wrote their PINS on their ATM cards or on slips of paper kept
with their cards.
The following suggestions may help you protect your credit and ATM card
For Credit Cards:
- Be cautious about disclosing your account number over the phone
unless you know you are dealing with a reputable company.
- Never put your account number on the outside of an envelope or on a
- Draw a line through blank spaces on charge slips above the total so
the amount cannot be changed.
- Don't sign a blank charge slip.
- Tear up carbons and save your receipts to check against your monthly
- Open billing statements promptly and compare them with your
receipts. Report mistakes or discrepancies as soon as possible to the
special address listed on your statement for "billing inquiries." Under
the FCBA, the card issuer must investigate billing errors reported to
them within 60 days of the date your statement was mailed to you.
- Keep a record — in a safe place separate from your cards — of your
account numbers, expiration dates, and the telephone numbers of each
card issuer so you can report a loss quickly.
- Carry only those cards that you anticipate you'll need.
For ATM cards:
- Don't carry your PIN in your wallet or purse or write it on your ATM
- Never write your PIN on the outside of a deposit slip, an envelope,
or on a postcard.
- Take your ATM receipt after completing a transaction.
- Reconcile all ATM receipts with bank statements as soon as possible.
Buying a Registration
For an annual fee of $10 to $35, companies will notify the issuers of
your credit and ATM accounts if your card is lost or stolen. This service
allows you to make only one phone call to report all card losses rather
than calling individual issuers. Most services also will request
replacement cards on your behalf.
Purchasing a card registration service may be convenient, but it's not
required. The FCBA and the EFTA give you the right to contact your card
issuers directly in the event of a loss or suspected unauthorized use.
If you decide to buy a registration service, compare offers. Carefully
read the contract to determine the company's obligations and your
liability. For example, will the company reimburse you if it fails to
notify card issuers promptly once you've called in the loss to the
service? If not, you could be liable for unauthorized charges.
The following federal agencies are responsible for enforcing federal
laws that govern credit and ATM card transactions. Questions concerning a
particular card issuer should be directed to the enforcement agency
responsible for that issuer.
State Member Banks of the Federal Reserve System
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve
20th & C Sts., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20551
Comptroller of the Currency
Mail Stop 7-5
Washington, D.C. 20219
Federal Credit Unions
National Credit Union
1776 G St., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20456
Non-Member Federally Insured Banks
Office of Consumer
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
550 Seventeenth St.,
Washington, D.C. 20429
Federally Insured Savings and Loans, and Federally Chartered State
Consumer Affairs Program
Office of Thrift
1700 G St., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20552
Other Credit Card Issuers
Consumer Response Center
Washington, D.C. 20580