What to do if your Debit/ATM Card Gets Lost or Stolen

I have to tell you: I almost had a heart attack the other day!

Okay, I am exaggerating a little.   Didn’t  “almost have a heart attack”, just panicked a little bit.

I had a meeting with a potential client, which went well.

Do you know how horrible the parking situation in Hollywood?  Limited and very expensive!  So you are forced to park in the parking garage with a rate of $2.25 for each 20 min.

My meeting lasted about 50 minutes and my parking bill was already about $9.00 by the time I got into my car ready to get out of there.  Crazy!  But this is not what this story is really all about.

As I was trying to get out of the garage, I read that the automatic check out point is only accepting credit and debit cards.  There was no booth with a human being in it.  Since I didn’t have my credit card with me, I was trying to use my debit card.

I swipe my card-it is not going through.  Okay, must be a mistake!  I try again and it is not going through.  Well, this is embarrassing.

I go to the nearby store to buy a thing or two in order to validate my ticket.  I swipe my card 3 times at the store and it is not going through!  Really?  What is wrong?  I know I have the money in the bank….

Thankfully, my bank was right next to the store.  I go to the bank and I am told that my card was cancelled for some suspicious activity.    So this is when I am getting a little sweaty, irritated and the panic is starting to set in.  “Is it happening again?  God!  I can’t deal with it right now!”

Unable to use my card to get out of that parking garage, with only one hour validated from the store; I still owe $4.50.  The cash that I had didn’t mean much at that moment.  What do I do?  I don’t want to be stuck here!  I am literally running around like a deer caught in the headlights.

Then, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel.  The gate was malfunctioning and it was wide open for anyone to go through.  How is that for a coincidence?  Thank God I was able to get out…

As it turns out, nothing horrible happened to my Debit/ATM card.  It was a mistake made by a bank.  Everything was straightened out the next day.  However, I am not a fool anymore when it comes to these things.  I still took a few steps to protect myself.

But what if my card was really used to commit fraud?   What if your Debit/ATM card is lost or stolen?  What should you do?

Here are a few things you should do if your Debit/ATM card was lost or stolen.

  • Notify your bank immediately and report your debit/ATM card lost or stolen!  Call the number printed on your statement or visit your bank’s website.    You may also visit your bank’s branch during business hours.  Your bank will cancel your card immediately and issue a new one; you should have it within 7 to 10 business days.
  • Review all of your statements for any unusual transactions.  If you are signed up for online banking, you will be able to see all recent cleared and pending transactions.  If you have not signed up for online banking option that pretty much every bank offers these days, I suggest you do so today.
  • If you see any unusual/unauthorized transactions, make sure to dispute those charges.  Always follow up in writing.    You must dispute fraudulent charges within 2 business days of learning about them in order to keep your liability to $50.00 or less.  Your liability goes up to $500 if you don’t report within those 2 business days.  If you report fraudulent charges after 60 days, your liability is unlimited.  So act swiftly!
  • Make sure to change all passwords, security codes and PINs associated with your Debit/ATM account, your online banking log in information, etc.
  • Make sure to document every contact you make with a bank.  Keep the names, numbers, addresses, and emails of every single person you talk to.

If you have reasons to believe that you are a victim of identity theft or about to become one, you have to do a few more things to resolve your problems.  My article “What to do if you are a victim of identity theft” gives you more information about the steps you should take if you are a victim of identity theft.

How your Debit/ATM card information gets stolen.

  • A very primitive, but effective way to steal your Debit/ATM card credentials is Shoulder Surfing.  When using an ATM, someone behind you may not be an innocent customer, it could be someone looking over your shoulder and taking note of your account number and PIN.
  • Beware of Skimming! The scammers use devices called skimmers to capture victims’ Debit/ATM or credit card account numbers in conjunction with small pin hole cameras installed above the PIN pad, which records the victims’ PINs.  Skimming devices are used at ATMs, in restaurants, gas stations or anywhere else where credit/debit cards are accepted.
  • You unknowingly answered a phishing email and provided fraudsters with your information.  The criminals then will create a duplicate of your card, which they can use online or at the gas stations.
  • Your wallet was stolen or lost.  Your Debit/ATM card can be used without your PIN.  For example, your debit card can be processed like a credit card.  When you use it in the restaurant, it will be processed just like a credit card.    It can be used as a credit card in stores, online, gas stations, etc.  Imagine what kind of damage can be done to your bank account!

What you should do to protect your Debit/ATM card

  • When using an ATM, make sure to check for skimming devices, cameras and anything unusual.  Brian Krebs wrote a great article about skimming with examples and photos.  Make sure to check it out.
  • Always shield the PIN Pad just in case there is a camera installed or someone is shoulder surfing.
  • Use ATMs installed at financial institutions.  Although not 100% skimmer proof, they are usually placed in well-lit well-trafficked areas reducing the chances of tempering with.
  • Avoid using stand alone ATMs in questionable areas.  Always make sure you are aware of your surroundings.
  • Learn how to recognize Phishing scams, and never respond to those.
  • Consider signing up for online banking to make sure you have up to date information about your transactions.

Have you ever had your Debit/ATM card lost or stolen?  What did you do?

About the Author

Lana is a real life Identity Theft Victim. Identity Theft Manifesto is a result of her own struggles to clear her credit, her name and reputation. She is on the mission to research, learn more and educate her readers about ID Theft Crime.