What to do when your debit card gets stolen
Photo Credit: Morguefile.com
Back in October, my debit card was stolen. Working with my bank, I got it all settled, but it was very stressful. I learned a few tips and tricks though that should help you keep an eye on your debit card, watch for potential mis-use and know what to do if your debit card is stolen.
I am still working with the bank on my experience and hope to publish and update soon. In the meantime, here are some tips that I hope will help you avoid a similar experience and know what to do when your card gets stolen:
1 – Check your accounts daily
I check my online banking transactions and balances twice daily: once in the morning to see what posted during the night and once in the evening to see what came in during the day. It takes just a few minutes to do it and gives me significant peace of mind. I also use this time to quickly update our budget.
Had I been doing this before my card was stolen I would have recognized it was missing and being misused sooner than I did. I just do a real quick check to make sure everything looks correct, specifically looking out for any un-recognized transactions. If I see something that doesn’t look right, I call my wife and ask her about it, if she doesn’t recognize it I call my bank immediately.
2 – Set-up Balance Alerts
Many banks also have online balance alerts, that will email or send an SMS message to your cell phone when your balance drops below a set amount. I would strongly advise you set up balance alerts and don’t set them too low. Receiving an unexpected low balance alert could be an early warning sign that someone is cleaning out your account and may allow you to stop it before they do. I have mine set pretty high.
3 – Keep your debit card in a secure and consistent place
As most men do, I keep my debit card in my wallet. Unlike most people though, I keep it in the same place facing the same way. This makes it easy to quickly check my wallet and make sure my card is there. Keeping it in the same place also makes it easy to visually detect if it’s missing. When I open my wallet for any reason, if my card isn’t there it’s very obvious.
What I learned the hard way is that your debit card is similar to carrying the cash amount you have in your account in your wallet (up to the spending limit of course). Treat it like you would treat carrying a large sum of cash. For all intents and purpose, that is really what it is.
4 – If your debit card is missing, call your bank immediately
If you notice your card is missing and can’t find it within a few minutes, call your bank immediately. Go straight to the fraud department. In my case the banks fraud department was great to work with. They were very understanding, helpful and proactive…which is what you need. If it turns out you just misplaced it, no big deal…better safe than sorry.
Regarding calling your bank. Keep their customer service phone number in your cell phone. In my situation, I was out of town and my card was missing. I couldn’t look the number up on the internet, and since I didn’t have the card, I couldn’t get the number off of the back. Fortunately I had it in my cell phone. You don’t need your account numbers or card numbers, the bank can look these up for you.
5 – Have a “Plan B”
The big mistake I made, and in hindsight I can’t believe I didn’t think through this more, is having a plan B. When your debit card gets stolen you will most likely be faced with one of two scenarios 1) The thief cleaned out your account and/or 2) The bank will have to block your debit card and/or account until things settle. In both of these situations, you will not have easy access to your money.
I had cut up all of my credit cards, and only had that one debit card and no significant cash with me. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Best part? We were on vacation and needed money for groceries.
When we got back from our trip, I immediately created an ING Direct checking account* and had them send me a debit card. I now keep my emergency fund in the ING checking account so I have access to my emergency fund if and when I need it. I have two emergency funds, one is a true emergency fund ($1000) and another which is a longer term emergency fund.
So now if my debit card gets stolen, I have something to fall back on. Oh, and I’ll be bringing a bit of cash with me too! Funny how something that is so obvious now wasn’t at the time.
6 – Don’t sign your debit card
I am sure I’ll get some disagreement on this: I don’t sign my debit card. I put “CHECK ID” on them. This causes the person running the register to look at my driver’s license to check my ID. When I had my signed, they never checked my signature and seldom checked my ID. Also, don’t leave it blank, doing so will allow the theif to just sign your name and use your card at will.
Businesses aren’t near as diligent as they should be an verifying IDs on debit and credit cards, and I think this is a huge problem. But at least placing “SEE ID” almost makes the business validate your ID.
Any tips I missed? Have you ever had your debit card stolen or misplaced? What is your plan B? Add a comment below!