Lost or Stolen Credit, ATM, and Debit Cards

Categories: Money Spending


If your credit, ATM, or debit card is lost or stolen, federal law limits your liability for charges made without your permission, but your protection depends on the type of card — and when you report the loss.

Report Loss Or Theft Immediately
If your credit, ATM, or debit card is lost or stolen, don’t wait to report it.

  1. Call — or get on the mobile app — and report the loss or theft to the bank or credit union that issued the card as soon as possible. Federal law says you’re not responsible to pay for charges or withdrawals made without your permission if they happen after you report the loss. It’s important to act fast. If you wait until someone uses your card without permission, you may have to pay some or all of those charges. Check your statement or online account for the right number to call. Consider keeping the customer service numbers for your bank or credit union in your phone’s contacts, and keep them up to date.
  2. Follow up immediately in writing. Send a letter to the card issuer and include your account number, the date and time when you noticed your card was missing, and when you first reported the loss. Keep a copy of your letter and your notes from calls with the bank or credit union.

Watch Your Accounts

  1. Keep checking your account statements and call to report fraudulent charges ASAP. If you spot a charge you didn’t make, call to report it immediately. If you wait, you may have to pay for the charges, or lose the money withdrawn from your account.
  2. Follow up immediately in writing. Send a letter to the address used for billing disputes (credit cards) or errors (debit cards). Confirm that you reported the fraudulent charge or withdrawal. Include the date and time when you noticed your card was missing, and when you first reported the loss.
  3. Check if your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance covers you for card thefts. If not, ask your insurance company to include this protection in your policy going forward.
  4. Check your credit reports. Get copies of your free credit reports to monitor for accounts or charges you don’t recognize. If you suspect identity theft, visit IdentityTheft.gov to report it and get a recovery plan.

How To Limit Your Losses
Under federal law, you have protections that help limit what you have to pay if your credit, ATM, or debit cards are lost or stolen.

If someone uses your ATM or debit card before you report it lost or stolen, what you owe depends on how quickly you report it.

How To Protect Your Account Information

  • Don’t share your account information. Don’t give your account number over the phone unless you made the call — and know why you need to share it. Never leave your account information out in the open.
  • Protect your accounts by using multi-factor authentication, when available. Some accounts offer extra security by requiring two or more credentials to log into your account. This is called multi-factor authentication — a security practice that makes it harder for scammers to log in to your accounts if they get your username and password. To log in to your account, you’d need either:
    • Something you have — like a passcode you get via text message or an authentication app.
    • Something you are — like a scan of your fingerprint, your retina, or your face.
  • Keep an eye on your accounts. Regularly check your account activity, especially if you bank online.
    • Carefully check your ATM or debit card transactions because they take money from your account right away. Report any withdrawals you don’t recognize to your bank or credit union immediately.
    • For your credit cards, open your monthly statements promptly. Compare the current balance and charges on your account with your receipts. Report any charges you don’t recognize as soon as you discover them.
  • Keep your cards, PINs, receipts, and deposit slips safe — and dispose of them carefully.
    • Carry only the cards you’ll need. Don’t carry the PIN for your ATM or debit card in your wallet, purse, or pocket. Never write your PIN on the card itself, or on any piece of paper that you could lose or someone could see.
    • Cut up old cards. Be sure to cut through the account number, the magnetic strip on the back, and the security code — before you throw the pieces away in separate bags. If your card has a chip, it may be difficult to cut. You may want to destroy the chip by smashing it into pieces with a hammer.

Avoiding Credit Card Loss Protection Scams
Scammers sometimes contact you — by phone, text, email, or by messaging you on social media — and try to trick you into thinking you need to buy “credit card loss protection insurance.” They may say you need it because computer hackers can get into your credit card and charge thousands of dollars. Or they might say they’re from your credit card company’s “security department.” They’ll claim you just need to confirm your account number to activate your card’s protection feature — but you’ll end up getting charged. No matter the story, it’s a scam and they’re just after your account number. Reputable financial companies won’t contact you like this, and there’s no need to pay for this so-called protection. Federal law already protects you from unauthorized use of your credit card.

If you see a scam, fraud, or a bad business practice, tell the FTC. Go to ReportFraud.ftc.gov, the FTC’s website that makes it easy for you to report.

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