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The Electronic Funds Transfer Act (EFTA)

They Cleared Out My Bank Account!


The Electronic Funds Transfer Act (EFTA)

The Electronic Funds Transfer Act (EFTA) tells banks how to handle your identity theft complaints.


An identity thief can get access to your bank account several ways. Stealing your debit card is probably the most common. But whenever you pay for something by check, you’re handing over your account number and routing information. Identity thieves have found check printing software is easy to find at the local Wal-Mart. With that, and a copy of your check, they can have a field day.

However it happened, your bank account is empty (or worse) and it shouldn't be. We think of it as “identity theft”, but the bank will probably call it account fraud, unauthorized withdrawl, or true-name fraud. What should you do?

The EFTA (Electronic Funds Transfer Act) gives banks some guidelines on how to resolve disputes with ATM/debit cards. Be sure to balance your account once a month when you get your statement. If you notice an error, report it immediately. If you wait, you could be out of luck.

  • If the error is reported within two business days, you’re loss should be limited to $50.
  • If the error is reported within 60 days, your loss will be limited to $500.
  • If the error is reported past 60 days, your will probably be out the money and any overdraft fees.

The bank will want to know:

  • Your name and account number.
  • Why you think there is an error.
  • How much the error is.
  • Date for the error.

They will want you to send this information in writing within 10 days.

If the account has been active for more than 30 days, the bank will do an investigation and get back to you within 10 days. If they need more time, they can take up to 45 days, but will credit the funds back to your account while they look into it.

If the account is less than 30 days old, or you’re disputing point-of-sale or foreign transactions, they may take up to 20 days to apply the temporary credit to your account. They may also take up to 90 days to finish their investigation.

If the banks investigation doesn’t support your claims, they will notify you in writing, and take the credits back from your account. One reason they may not support your claim is excessive use by an authorized user. In other words, if you let your son use your card, and he spends more than you told him he could, the bank won't consider that an identity theft (because you gave him permission to use the card.)

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