What Do I Do When I See an Unauthorized Transaction from My Bank?

If you check your transactions through your bank on a regular basis, you may find a transaction that you did not authorize. Usually this is a sign that someone has stolen your debit card or they have somehow skimmed the number and have access to your checking account. It is important to act quickly to protect yourself and to stop this situation from escalating out of control. Here are the steps you need to take in this situation. 

1
Contact Your Bank

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The first thing you need to do is to contact your bank and find out more about the transaction. The bank should be able to tell you if the transaction was from a debit card or if it was a ACH transaction. If it was a debit card or point of sale transaction, it may be enough to cancel the debit card. If it is an ACH transaction, you will likely need to close the account. Your bank can cancel a debit card over the phone, but you may need to go in to finish closing up your checking account. Make sure they put a temporary freeze on the account so further charges accrue while you are on the way to the bank.  

2
Contact the Vendor

Next you will need to contact the vendor to begin disputing the charge. Some vendors may work with you to press fraud charges and to generate a report that you can file with the police. It depends on where the charges were made, and how long ago they were made. If they posted to your account, you may have to wait several days to have money credited to your account. If you check your transactions on a daily basis, you may be able to catch the charge while it is still pending. 

3
Dispute the Charge With Your Bank

Some banks may have this step done separately from calling to cancel the card or close your account. You may be able to dispute the charge by filling out a form online or you may have to go in to the bank to complete the transaction. This depends on your banks current policy. You have sixty days to dispute the charge formally. Still it is important to act as quickly as you can, especially if you need the money that was taken out of your account. This is one reason why it is so important to balance your account to your bank statement on a regular basis. You can do this monthly or weekly. 

4
File a Fraud or Police Report

Depending on the number of charges made and the severity of the situation, you may need to file a fraud report with your local police department. This shows the bank that you did not make the charges and can help to clear up your account. This does not mean that you will receive money back more quickly, but it is helpful to show to businesses that may not think they have done anything wrong. The police report may also be necessary if you find out that the thief has attempted identity theft, as well. It is important that you keep a copy of the police report on file in case you need it in the future. 

5
Switch Your Bank Drafts to Your New Account or Card

If you close your account, you will need to switch everything that was direct deposited or automatically drafted from that account. This means changing the information for each of the services that you use. If it was just the debit card, then you need to switch the services that you signed up with your debit card. This would be things like gym memberships, Netflix accounts and similar services. It is helpful to keep a list of the automatic charges on your debit card so you can change them right away instead of dealing with the charges bouncing back and having services canceled on you. it will only take a few minutes per account to change them online. It may take longer if you have to change them on the phone or in person at the gym. 

6
Monitor Your Account and Credit Closely

Finally, you need to continue to monitor your account and your credit report closely. If the user had direct access to your checking account and not just your debit card, you may want to put a temporary freeze on your credit report to add extra protection for yourself. It is important to but a stop to this before it turns into full-blown identity theft. Check a credit report every four months, and check on your checking account daily to make sure you are safe. It is a good idea to closely monitor your other accounts, as well. It can be frustrating when you find out that your information was compromised, but it makes it that much more important to monitor your information in the future. You may also want to be careful about which sites you shop at and that you watch for credit card skimmers at ATMS and vending machines.