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How To Respond To Unauthorized Transactions In Your Bank Account

By Erik Folgate

identity theft bank of americaThis past weekend, for the first time in my adult life, I was the victim of identity theft. We were walking into the movie theater about to sit down for a movie, and I got a phone call from a weird phone number. I listened to the message as we sat down in our seats and it was Bank of America saying there was suspicious activity in my bank account. My first reaction was that it was a scam, some kind of phishing attempt to get me to call them back and give them personal information acting like they were Bank of America. I have an iPhone, so I logged into my online banking from the BOA iPhone app, and sure enough, there were two $1,000 purchases and about a dozen smaller charges. My heart sank to my stomach. I couldn’t freakin’ believe it. Someone hijacked my account or one of our debit card numbers and was buying crap online. I couldn’t sit through that movie knowing what I now knew, so we left the theater, got rain check passes to see the movie another time, and I quickly called Bank of America.

Call The Bank As Soon As Possible

The theft occurred on Saturday, so Bank of America was on top of their game. I had just checked my account online on Friday, but if they hadn’t called me, I probably wouldn’t have checked it again until Monday or Tuesday. After doing some research, I’ve found that the quicker you report unauthorized transactions, the less suspicious the bank is that it was actually you that made the purchases. There may be a specific time period that you have to claim unauthorized transactions, but call and notify them ASAP!

Speak With The Bank’s Fraud Division

All large banks and even regional banks/credit unions more than likely have a specific identity theft/fraud division. Those are the people you need to talk to. Make sure you write down all of the purchases that are unauthorized and the amounts, because they’ll ask you to name all of the ones that were unauthorized. They’ll start claims for all of those charges to be reversed, but for Bank of America, they couldn’t begin the claim process until those charges had cleared out of my account. The only way they can reverse them before they clear is by contacting the merchant to try to get them to stop the payment from going through. The merchant in this case was some shady looking website from Germany. It was probably run by the thieves.

Don’t Forget To Fill Out The Affidavits and Send Back Certified Mail

I was so flipping mad, that I put the obligatory rant on my Facebook status, and not surprisingly, a lot of people in my friend circle had this happen to them in the past. Once Bank of America puts the money back in your account, it’s a “temporary credit.” This temporary credit is made permanent ONLY when you fill out the affidavit that they send you and you send it back AND they receive it. I had a friend who sent the affidavit back to Bank of America, but it got lost in the mess of Bank of America stuff, and they didn’t get any kind of tracking or signature confirmation on the mail, so they had no way of proving they sent it back within the specified time period, so Bank of America took the “temporary credit” back out of their account, and they were out $200.

Some Quick Tips About Unauthorized Purchases

  • If you truly didn’t authorize the purchase with your signature or by entering your pin number, you have ZERO liability for those purchases, no matter what bank it is or what state you’re in. That’s federal law. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The way that banks legally pin you down is by the affidavit you sign. If, for some reason, they find out you were lying and you signed that form, you could get in a lot of criminal trouble.
  • ALWAYS send back the affidavit via certified mail with return receipt requested.
  • Immediately file a fraud alert with all three credit reporting agencies. You can do it on all three of their websites. The agencies are Equifax, Transunion, and Experian. This will alert anyone who runs your credit that they need to verify your identity before loaning you money or doing any kind of financial transaction using your social security number.
  • If all they did was take your debit card number, you can usually keep your bank account. The bank will know if the purchases came from a debit card or drafted from the bank account number and routing number.

What Happened

Even though I’m not a big fan of mega banks, we have Bank of America because I’ve had it for so long, and there are so many bills and direct deposits hooked up to it that it’d be a royal pain to switch to another account. I think it was to my advantage in this instance because BOA deals with so much fraud that they were on top of this very quickly. It happened on Saturday, I filed the claims on Saturday, the transactions cleared on Tuesday, and the money was back in our accounts on Wednesday, so that’s a pretty good turn around time. We were only without the money for four days. I have no clue how they got my debit card number. I am going to do a follow up post about how to protect your debit card number from getting stolen. My conspiracy theory is that it was a credit card skimmer, like someone got it from a gas pump or a server at a restaurant wrote it down and passed it off to someone who sold it to the black market. Who knows, but I’m kind of glad that it happened, because it’ll make me a lot more protective of my debit card, how I use it, and where it’s being used.

Do you or any of your friends have any stolen account information stories?

Erik Folgate
Erik and his wife, Lindzee, live in Orlando, Florida with a baby boy on the way. Erik works as an account manager for a marketing company, and considers counseling friends, family and the readers of Money Crashers his personal ministry to others. Erik became passionate about personal finance and helping others make wise financial decisions after racking up over $20k in credit card and student loan debt within the first two years of college.

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Comments

  • Casey

    Eek! That happened to us too. Our story is very similar, and BoA did a great job handling the situation which is why we also stick with them. Someone had charged $5500 worth of vacuum cleaners to our credit card.

  • Goal Jungle Girl

    Oh scary! Good advice, especially about calling right away. When I had my purse stolen, I found out and called less than an hour later, but they had already made $200 in purchases at a gas station.

  • http://www.gobankingrates.com danielle

    i experienced a similar thing. someone used my credit card for around $800 in shipping charges in China during the start of the Beijing Olympics! my bank called right away letting me know of the suspicious activity. and it was kind of obvious i wasn’t receiving a shipping container in China. (charged on-site somehow) my bank was able to return the charges right away (i think 1 or 2 days) while they processed my claim. they also said i was required to go fill out a police report. the officer was really nice, telling me it’s the #1 crime they see, and that he’s just waiting for his number to come up some day. everything worked out fine, and i agree that the quicker you take action, the quicker it can all be taken care of.

  • Joseph

    This just happened to us this week with Bank of America, but they were very rude to us, even suggesting to my wife that I must have made the transactions and didn’t tell her, even though they were card swipes in London and I was sitting beside her in our home in Texas. And it should be noted that my job is defending agains this kind of information disclosure, so I’m always on the lookout for card skimmers at ATM’s and gas pumps, I don’t use my cards with computers I don’t have control over, and I check daily for suspicious activity on my accounts, etc. Then they not only canceled my bank card, but they also froze all of my accounts, leaving my pennyless. After yelling at them for how unprofessional and rude they were in handling the situation, I canceled all of my accounts with them and have moved to another bank, but they still have some of my money which they refuse to let go because some of the transactions have not cleared. It’s not that I blame them for the breach/loss, but I will not accept that kind of service from a bank whom I pay for premium checking and have deposited a large amount of money into over the last 13 years. Bank of America has treated us like crap over the years, and been sued countless times because of it, and I’m finally happy to end my 13 year relationship with them.

  • Nichole

    I have heard of these happening often with Bank of America customers. It’s almost like it’s an inside job. I would switch because 9 out of 10 stories I hear are BofA customers.

  • 46BJA

    We discovered 3 companies had not received payment of bills when the next months bills arrived. I checked our account online and found the checks I wrote had not cleared. I also found a mysterious automatic withdrawal for a “not-so-nice” social website under my husbands name. It appears that someone stole our mail from the mailbox and used our names and account numbers. I made an immediate trip to the bank; they closed our account and opened a new one at no expense to us…they investigated and determined fraud. The bank notified the “adult” website to cancel charges as fraud had been committed in our name. We reissued payments and the bank covered our cost of new checks, late charges, etc. Three months later a very nasty bill collector called us trying to collect past due payments for the adult website. So, despite the bank notifying them that our identity had been stolen, the website tried collection efforts. Another trip to the bank. They filled out an affidavit advising the collector of fraud and they gave us paperwork for the Police. Another trip to the police department. Every 4 months we now check our credit rating from 1 credit reporting agency to monitor our credit rating. We are clear so far. Your mailbox is not safe – use the post office. Monitor your bank accounts at least weekly. Use your bank to help you with the problem. Keep an eye on your credit reports.

  • Jalva321

    Hi everyone, this happened to me with Bank Atlantic for $3800.00 I contacted them a month late after I got back from military training. I filed the affidavit at the bank. Turns out they never gave me a temporary credit, nor did they put the money back in the account. Does anyone know what I can do about it? I was thinking about sueing the bank, are there any laws that protect one from this BS? Anything like this happen to anyone?

  • Teri Lee

    This just happened to both my husband and me, about a month apart. My husbands ATM Debit card got hit in August for $511.00 from someone who made a .com purchase from Walmart in another part of the state. We got notified from the bank the next day. Weset into motion all of the police reports and fraud reports through the bank etc. A “temporary” credit was receivedfrom BOA. We thought it was all taken care of and then yesterday we get a letter from BOA saying after they did their investigation it was determined that the hack was an authorized transaction and they were going to take the $511.00 back from our account! Holy crap! Really?? We don’t even know what was purchased! We called Walmart and are now filling out their Identity Theft Affidavit. I don’t know what else we can do to prove we didn’t make the charge!! Needless to say we are still fighting with the bank to get our money back! Any suggestions???

  • Mail4rimi

    This just happened to my BOA checking account. I live in CA, and my statement shows a transaction made a couple of days back in NJ, at Bed Bath and Beyond for $354. To top it all it happened to me just before the Thanksgiving day, so the Fraud department will be closed tomorrow. I, however, called the Customer Care service, but they kept routing me to their fraud department. I am not sure how someone could use my debit card information to make purchases in a different state altogether. I am really tensed, and the wait is making it worse. Do you have any suggestions/advice I can follow to prevent this from happening before I can call up their Fraud/Claims Department after the Thanksgiving vacation? Thanks much

  • Martin

    Bank of America too, it just happened a couple hours ago, there is a unauthorized $200 transfer from one of my checking accounts to a CapitalOne checking account, BOA representative gave me the account information and said that I have to wait until transaction is completely processed.

  • concerned citizen

    fake BANK OF AMERICA phishing

    8009718053

    1-800-971-8053

    Just got a call from these very OFFICIAL SOUNDING people. Said they were from Bank of America, and that there was a charge for $1,000′s of dollars on my account from a computer store!

    They called from an UNKNOWN NUMBER and then gave me 1-800-971-8053 to call back as their “Fraud Department”. Thank goodness the number had a strange recording & i couldn’t get through…they were FAKE and phishing!

    Called my real bank number, from my bank statement not the # they gave me, and they said i had NO SUCH CHARGES. How can criminals like this get away with pretending to be a bank?? They sounded completely legitimate.

    NEVER TRUST ANYONE WHO CALLS YOU or gives you a phone number to call back. Only go to the original company, from your own source!

    ps – when I called the real Bank of America, they said 1-800-971-8053 is NOT one of their numbers. And they didn’t even care! They must get so much of these fake calls, they don’t even track them. Crazy.

  • Niki

    Try a total of 10K going missing from your Bank of America account. THat really messes up your finances. Its all well and good going through the fraud process and closing the account etc… I have no money to pay bills! The bank allowed other people to open a PAYPAL account with my checking account! Thanks BofA…. awesome security!

    • zub

      Try on $30,000.00 taken out of my personal home equity line of credit through Chase Bank. This to is interesting after reading all your stories about banks and how rude they are and whats worst they don’t listen to their customer. You are tossed around from one prompt to another on the phone and never talk to the person that could help you resolve that matter. Because Chase did not provide me with their ID theft Affidavit form the statutes ran out. THIS IS ALL BS and what right do Banks have alotting such a narrow window

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