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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

BBB Tip of the Week: Unauthorized charges on credit, debit cards

Dealing with fraudulent charges on a debit or credit card can be a hassle. The laws protecting credit cards and debit cards are different.

The Fair Credit Billing Act limits the financial responsibility of credit card users for unauthorized charges to just $50. Also, if you report a loss of your credit card before it is used fraudulently, you are not responsible for unauthorized charges. If your credit card number is stolen and you still have the physical card, then you are not liable for any unauthorized use.

The Electronic Fund Transfer Act protects against unauthorized use of ATM and debit cards. For lost or stolen cards, your liability depends on when you report it to the bank and ranges from zero to the full amount of the fraudulent activity. If your debit card number is used in an unauthorized transaction but the card is still in your possession, you are not liable so long as you report it within 60 days of receiving the statement showing the fraudulent activity.

The Better Business Bureau offers the following tips to proactively guard your credit and debit accounts:

• Report fraud to your bank or credit card issuer immediately.

• Check your bank and credit card accounts often for suspicious activity.

• Promptly balance your checking account monthly against your statement.

• Examine your free credit report yearly at all three credit bureaus. Consider staggering them throughout the year to ward off any surprises.

• Scammers are taking advantage of recent data breaches. One local credit union alerted its members of phony text messages from scammers trying to collect personal and banking information. The scammers claim that the member’s debit card is inactive and provide a phone number to use to reactivate.

If fraudulent charges have been made to your credit or bank account, file a police report in Spokane County by calling Crime Watch at (509) 456-2233 or online at www.spokanecounty .org/CrimeCheck.

Also, you can report fraud to the BBB at or by calling (509) 455-4200.

Erin T. Dodge, BBB editor