01Contact Your Bank
First, contact your bank to 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 an ACH (or electronic) 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 to a physical branch to close your account. But in the meantime, be sure your bank puts a temporary freeze on the account so further charges accrue while you resolve the issue.
02Contact the Vendor
Next, you need to contact the vendor to begin the process of 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 and when the charges were made.
If the charges have already posted to your account, you may have to wait several days for the dispute to go through and have the 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.
03Dispute the Charge With Your Bank or Credit Card Company
Oftentimes, you can dispute a charge with your bank or credit card company by filling out a form online and providing some information about the fraudulent charge. You may also have to go into your bank and physically fill out a dispute form.
You have 60 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.
04File 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 necessarily mean that you will receive your money back more quickly, but it is helpful in doing so. The police report may also be necessary if you find out that the thief has attempted identity theft, as well. Be sure to keep a copy of the police report on file in case you need it in the future.
05Switch Your Bank Drafts to Your New Account or Card
If you close your account as a result of the fraudulent charges, you 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, as well as for any direct debit payments you have set up.
These include things like gym memberships, Netflix accounts, and your household bills. 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 or bills going unpaid.
06Monitor 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 a layer of extra protection.
Remember, it is important to put a stop to any fraudulent charges before it can turn into full-blown identity theft. Be sure to check your credit report every four months, and check on your checking account daily to make sure no additional fraudulent charges pop up.
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.
Updated by Rachel Morgan Cautero.
What Do I Do When I See an Unauthorized Transaction on My Account?
If you keep a running tab on your bank account and check your transactions regularly, you may run across an unauthorized account. 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 any further unauthorized charges. Follow these six steps if you find an unauthorized charge on your account.