Happy 2014, Readers!
I get frequent inquiries from victims of debit card identity theft. With the recent situation at Target Stores, which indeed involved a lot of debit cards, this topic is ripe for some candid discussion.
A lot of credit experts, quite a few of them I respect, have been advising consumers to monitor their debit cards closely and to report any sign of identity theft right away. This is correct advice, whether you are dealing with debit cards or credit cards.
However, my agreement with this advice stops at that point, because quite a few of these same experts believe that you lose your rights if you don’t report an ID theft on your debit card to your bank within 48 or 72 hours. At least in California, this is not true.
California consumers are protected by the California Identity Theft Law, wherein consumers must first obtain a police report or a DMV identity theft report and provide it to their bank, along with very complete detail of which charges to their checking/savings account are identity theft charges. Under the California Identity Theft Law, consumers have FOUR YEARS to do this, technically. While I would never counsel anyone to wait four years, this is certainly less restrictive than the 48 hours or the 72 hours that the banks give you.
If the bank does not re-credit your account after presenting the Police report or DMV report, along with a complete listing of the identity theft charges, then yes, you have rights under the California Identity Theft law, which include all of your damages, the potential of a civil penalty of up to $30,000 and your attorney’s fees paid by the bank.
So, if your bank does not re-credit you for an ID theft on your debit card, and you take the steps I have outlined in this short article, please contact us and we can help. Remember always to keep copies of any documents you provide to the bank, and if you use the mails, always use certified mail.
I hope this helps you get off to a great start for 2014!