Color of Money: A real debit card scare

Michelle Singletary on

I love this tip. The point is the crook can only get away with a limited amount of money. Make sure your main account isn't linked to the separate debit card.

Keep in mind that with a debit card there's not much of a delay from the time of your purchase until the funds are withdrawn. This means fraudulent transactions can quickly do a lot of damage. And you may not get a refund soon enough to cover any bills you have coming due.

"Consumers don't always realize that the credit card company logo affixed to their debit card doesn't translate into the same protections offered by a credit card," another reader correctly pointed out.

Do this for me. Before you use your debit card again, read this post from the Federal Trade Commission: "Lost or Stolen Credit, ATM, and Debit Cards" (

In addition to other important information, you'll see that when it comes to your debit card, the longer you wait to report a theft affects how much you can recover. Here's your liability:

-- Zero dollars. If your debit card is reported lost or stolen before an unauthorized transaction.

-- $50. If, after you learn about the unauthorized transactions, you report it within two business days.

-- $500. If the fraud is reported more than the two business days but fewer than 60 calendar days from getting your statement.

If you fail to report a fraudulent charge more than 60 calendar days after you receive your statement, you cede all protection. All your stolen money could be gone.

Because a debit card is treated like Cinderella compared to its sister, the credit card, many readers said they rarely use their bankcard.


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