5 Steps to Take if Your Checkbook or Debit Card Is Stolen

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If your checkbook or debit card has been stolen or lost, it is important to act quickly so you will not be held liable for any money that is fraudulently taken from your accounts.

Here are the five things you need to do if your checkbook or wallet is stolen.

1. Call Your Bank, and Freeze Your Account

First, call your bank and put a freeze on your account. Generally, a freeze will last as long as you are searching for the missing debit card or checkbook and find it, or until you notify the bank that they are permanently lost. This will temporarily stop all checks and debit transactions from going through in your account.

As a result, you may have transactions that you have actually made not go through, such as a check for rent or a recent purchase you made as a result of the freeze. Worth noting: This is different from putting a stop payment on just one check.

2. Gather Information About Your Transactions

Gather up information such as old statements, your checkbook ledger, or a printout of your recent transactions and recent receipts to take with you to the bank. These items will help you and your customer service representative decide which items to allow to clear.

The sooner you gather these items, the more quickly you can choose which transactions are safe for the bank to let through. This is an important step, since it will allow you to continue to pay bills and make necessary purchases.

3. Close Your Current account

Visit your bank to close your account and to open a new one. Be prepared to spend some time at the bank to do this. The customer service representative will sit down with you and make a list of items that you will allow to clear your old account. This will include the items that you have gathered above.

They will then open a new account for you. This is the best way to stop any fraudulent activity when your debit card or checkbook has been lost or stolen.

4. File a Police Report

You also need to file a police report. This is only necessary if you are sure that the checkbook or debit card was stolen. If you just misplaced the checkbook, and you are closing the account as a preventative measure, skip this step.

However, a police report is necessary if you end up dealing with identity theft. It should not take too long to file the report, but you can use the same report if for example, your wallet was stolen and you need to protect your credit cards, as well.

5. Deal With Automatic Debits and Deposits

You need to make a list on any automatic drafts or deposits that involve this account. You will need to update any direct debits, direct deposits, or outstanding payments associated with this account.

You should do this as quickly as possible since it can take a few days to update your account information. You may also have automatic transfers, and your customer service representative can help you decide if you need to close and reopen your savings account, too. 

Other tips:

  • You will need to follow similar steps if your credit cards are stolen. It is important to contact each bank as quickly as possible.
  • The sooner you report the lost or stolen checkbook, the better. The bank will usually reverse all of charges if you report the theft before an unauthorized transaction has taken place. Additionally, the sooner you report it and freeze your account, the lower your chances of losing money due to fraudulent activity.
  • Continue to watch for debit card transactions that you did not authorize. Remember, debit and credit card numbers are often stolen with skimmers. The transactions can happen all over the country while you still have your card on you. Many banks will allow you to check pending transactions and you may be able to stop the transaction before it happens. Remember, it's always a good idea to monitor your accounts daily.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do I cancel a check if it was lost or stolen?

You can stop payment on a specific check by contacting your bank. Your bank will not pay out the amount of a check if someone tries to cash or deposit it. You likely will need to provide your bank with the amount and number of the check in order to stop payment on it.

Will I ever be responsible for fraudulent charges from my checking account?

If you report the loss of your debit card or checkbook after a charge is made from your account, you may be responsible for up to $50 of the fraudulent charges. If you report the loss before a charge is made, you won't be responsible for any of the charges. You also won't be responsible if your account number is used but you didn't lose your debit card or checkbook.

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  1. Federal Trade Commission. "Lost or Stolen Credit, ATM, and Debit Cards."

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