5 Steps to Take If Your Checkbook or Debit Card is Stolen

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If your checkbook or debit card has debit card has been stolen or lost, it is important to act quickly so you will not be held liable for any money that is fraudulently taken from your accounts.

Here are the five things you need to do if your checkbook or wallet is stolen.

1. Call Your Bank and Freeze Your Account

First, call your bank and put a freeze on your account. Generally, a freeze will only last 24 hours. This will temporarily stop all checks and debit transactions from going through in your account.

As a result, you may have transactions that you have actually made not go through, such as a check for rent or a recent purchase you made as a result of the freeze. Worth noting: This is different from putting a stop payment on just one check.

2. Gather Information About Your Transactions

Gather up information such as old statements, your checkbook ledger or a printout of your recent transactions and recent receipts to take with you to the bank. These items will help you and your customer service representative decide which items to allow to clear.

The sooner you gather these items, the more quickly you can choose which transactions are safe for the bank to let through. This is an important step since it will allow you to continue to pay bills and make necessary purchases.

3. Close Your Current account

Visit your bank to close your account and to open a new one. Be prepared to spend some time at the bank to do this. The customer service representative will sit down with you and make a list of items that you will allow to clear your old account. This will include the items that you have gathered above.

She will then open a new account for you. This is the best way to stop any fraudulent activity when your debit card or checkbook has been lost or stolen.

4. File a Police Report

You also need to file a police report. This is only necessary if you are sure that the checkbook or debit card was stolen. If you just misplaced the checkbook, and you are closing the account as a preventative measure, skip this step.

However, a police report is necessary if you end up dealing with identity theft. It should not take too long to file the report, but you can use the same report if for example, your wallet was stolen and you need to protect your credit cards, as well.

5. Deal With Automatic Debits and Deposits

You need to make a list on any automatic drafts or deposits that involve this account. You will need to update any direct debits, direct deposits, or outstanding payments associated with this account.

You should do this as quickly as possible since it can take a few days to update your account information. You may also have automatic transfers, and your customer service representative can help you decide if you need to close and reopen your savings account, too. 

Other tips:

  • You will need to follow similar steps if your credit cards are stolen. It is important to contact each bank as quickly as possible.
  • The sooner you report the lost or stolen checkbook, the better. The bank will usually reverse charges if you report the theft within 24 hours. Additionally, the sooner you report it and freeze your account, the lower your chances of losing money due to fraudulent activity.
  • Continue to watch for debit card transactions that you did not authorize. Remember, debit and credit card numbers are often stolen with skimmers. The transactions can happen all over the country while you still have your card on you. Many banks will allow you to check pending transactions and you may be able to stop the transaction before it happens. Remember, it's always a good idea to monitor your accounts daily.

    Updated by Rachel Morgan Cautero.