The Common Law

Lost or stolen ATM card – who's responsible for unauthorized withdrawals

Who is responsible for withdrawals from an ATM card that is stolen or lost?

Like other unexplainable laws of nature, at some point in your life you will probably have to deal with the frustration of losing your ATM card or having it stolen. In some cases unauthorized withdrawals may occur on the ATM card. This raises the question of who is responsible for unauthorized withdrawals – you or the bank? A federal law called the Electronic Fund Transfers Act gives the answer.

According to the EFTA, a person who loses their card will only be liable for up to $50 in unauthorized withdrawals if they notify the bank within two business days after they realize the card is missing. The same person will be liable for up to $500 of unauthorized withdrawals if they fail to notify the bank within two business days after they realize the card is missing, but do notify the bank within 60 days after the bank statement is mailed to that person listing the unauthorized withdrawals. If the person fails to notify the bank within 60 days of receiving notice of the unauthorized withdrawals, the person could be responsible for all the unauthorized withdrawals made after the 60-day period. Some exceptions exist to these general rules for things like extended travel or hospital stays.

The EFTA states that an ATM card holder will not be liable for any charges or withdrawals once the bank is notified that the card is missing. So the message is clear – call your bank immediately once you realize that your card is missing. It is best to follow-up the phone call by sending a letter (via certified mail) confirming your telephone notification.

Ultimately, the easiest way to avoid these problems is to protect your personal identification code. If you do lose your ATM card, contact your bank immediately to reduce your liability for unauthorized withdrawals.

Please submit column suggestions, questions, and comments to thecommonlaw@austinchronicle.com. Submission of potential topics does not create an attorney-client relationship, and any information submitted is subject to being included in future columns.

Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP, www.jmehlaw.com.

The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or www.austinlrs.com.

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