I've been a victim of card fraud but my bank won't help

Federal laws, zero-liability policies protect you against card fraud, ID theft

The Credit Guy columnist Todd Ossenfort
Todd Ossenfort has been chief operating officer for Pioneer Credit Counseling since 1998. He writes our weekly "The Credit Guy" column, answering reader questions about credit counseling and debt issues.

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Question

Dear Credit Guy
My computer was hacked and the person who did it not only stole all my savings but also charged $12,000 on my credit card. I filed with police, the FBI, the Federal Trade Commission and the bank about fraud/theft.

The bank is not helping and now they are wanting me to pay the $12,000 on the credit card.

I do not owe this. What can I do? – Lewin

Answer

Dear Lewin,
I am so sorry that this happened to you. It would seem that you have done everything right by filing reports with several entities who should be able to help you.

I am unsure why your bank is being uncooperative and expects you to pay the $12,000 on the credit card.

With limited information, I can only tell you how you are protected from these types of theft.

How federal laws protect you against credit card fraud

  • The Fair Credit Billing Act limits liability for unauthorized credit card charges to $50.
  • If the issuing bank is notified in a timely manner, usually within 30 days, even the $50 is often waived.
  • In the case of debit cards, liability is zero if you notify your bank immediately, $50 if you notify them within two days, and $500 if you report after two days but before 60 days.
  • You don’t say how much money was stolen from your savings account. All of that money should have been returned to you, again assuming that you notified the bank within 60 days.

Your case is somewhat unique since you say the thief stole the information from your computer. It could be that the bank is refusing to help you because they believe you were negligent and that is why your information was stolen (failing to exercise "reasonable care" in protecting your identity can be an exception to the bank’s zero-liability policies.)

Or they may suspect that you know the person who stole the information and were working with that person to commit fraud.

In any case, if you think your card issuer has violated the Fair Credit Billing Act, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or the Federal Trade Commission.

How to protect yourself against ID theft

As noted, you did file reports with several entities, including the Federal Trade Commission.

You might reach out to them through their IdentityTheft.gov website and ask for advice. The FTC advertises this site as a one-stop resource to help those who have been the victim of identity theft.

One step any consumer who’s been a victim of ID theft should take and you didn’t mention in your question is place a fraud alert on your credit reports.

Fraud alerts can stop a thief from opening additional accounts in your name. They also ask issuers to contact you before any new account is opened or an existing account is changed.

If you haven’t done so yet, place a fraud alert by calling one of the three national credit bureaus – Equifax, TransUnion or Experian. Note that one call to any of them will be enough to place your fraud alert. The company you call is required to contact the other two. Within 24 hours, all three of the bureaus will be alerted.

Claiming your cardholder rights

I want you to know that the burden is on the bank to prove negligence or fraud.

While I am not an attorney and cannot give you legal advice, it’s probably a good idea to contact an attorney if the bank decides to pursue a negligence or fraud case against you – or if they insist on holding you liable for the unauthorized charges on your card.

If that’s the case, I suggest you reach out to a consumer lawyer experienced in handling Fair Credit Billing Act cases.

You can find a consumer lawyer in your region by visiting the National Association of Consumer Advocates website and clicking "Find an Attorney."

No matter what, I would not recommend that you ignore any correspondence or summons that you may receive.

I hope you can resolve this situation successfully very soon. Take care of your credit!

See related: 7 exceptions to zero-liability policies, ID theft: What to do if you’ve been a victim

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Updated: 07-22-2018