For example, those who frequently inquire about fraudulent or incorrect charges, which can be considered suspect, may have to wait for the bank to do some preliminary detective work. Johnson explains, “A customer’s account history, an evaluation of past history with the retailer and potentially a discussion with the retailer’s bank could all be part of the investigation.” Additionally, if fraud is the culprit, the bank will have to close your account and issue a new debit card, which can further delay your access to much-needed funds. Therefore, if your identity is stolen at an inopportune time (say, the end the month) you may, in fact, be left scrambling.
How can you limit the consequences?
For starters, ask your bank to outline its claims policy before you sign up for an account. (If you already have one, call your customer service hotline.) This way you’ll know exactly what you are entitled to should a fraudulent charge appear on your debit card statement. It might save you a few headaches.
I had no idea, for example, that Wachovia’s claims division was open 24/7, 365 days a year. Instead, I took it at face value when the customer service rep told me I had to wait until the next business day to file my dispute. Apparently, he thought the claims division closed at 8 p.m.
Next, once your account is open, make sure you check it regularly. Ed Kadletz, head of Wells Fargo’s Debit and Prepaid Cards Department, pointed out that, while Wells Fargo monitors for irregular activity, they’re not going to capture everything. Therefore, consumers should “monitor their own transactions,” a sentiment echoed by both Neil Brazil, vice president of Public Affairs for HSBC, and Ben Tanner, spokesperson for Bank of America.