Federal Laws Concerning Lost or Stolen Debit/Credit Cards
The ease and convenience offered by a credit or debit card enable consumers to make seamless and hassle-free purchases. That being said, when a credit or debit card is lost or stolen, there are potential consequences that an individual must be made aware of. The Fair Credit Billing Act and the Electronic Fund Transfer Act affirmed various procedures that must be followed in the event of a lost or stolen card.
Limiting your Financial Loss after the Card is Lost or Stolen:
After you have noticed that your card has gone missing, you must immediately report your credit or debit cards as lost or stolen to the issuing agency. The majority of issuers offer toll-free numbers and 24-hour customer service departments to deal with such emergencies. Additionally, it’s also a prudent move to follow up calls with a letter or email to affirm that the card has been lost or stolen. Be sure to include your account number and the date of the expected loss, when you report that your card is missing.
The maximum liability under federal law for unauthorized use of a credit card is $50. If you report the loss before your credit card is accessed, the Federal Credit Billing Act states that the card issuer cannot hold you responsible for any unauthorized charges. If a thief accesses and uses your card before they are reported missing, the most you will owe for the unauthorized charges is $50 per card. Additionally, if the loss involves just your credit card number (and not the card itself) you possess no liability for unauthorized use.
Liability under federal law for the unauthorized use of your debit card is dependent on the timeframe in which you report the card missing. If you report an ATM or debit card missing before it used without authorization, the Electronic Fund Transfer Act states that the card issues cannot hold you responsible for unauthorized transfers.
If unauthorized use is present before you report the card missing, your liability under law is dependent on how quickly you report the loss. For example, if you report the unauthorized use within two business days after you realize the card was missing, you will not be responsible for more than $50 of unauthorized use. However, if you do not report the loss within two business days after you realize the card as lost, you could lose up $500 of the unauthorized use or transfer.
Additionally, you will risk unlimited loss if you fail to report an unauthorized transfer within 60 days after your bank statement containing the unauthorized use is mailed to you. This unfortunate situation means that you could lose all the money in your bank account and the unused portion of your line of credit established for overdrafts. For unauthorized transfers involving your debit card number (and not the card) you are liable for only the transfers that take place following 60 days from the mailing of your bank statement that contains the unauthorized use.