When your debit card is lost or stolen, there are laws that prohibit financial institutions from holding you liable for unauthorized transactions, as long as you report the lost or stolen card in a timely manner. The Electronic Fund Transfers Act says that a consumer cannot be held liable for more than $50 of unauthorized charges if you report the card as lost or stolen within 2 days of learning of the loss of the card.
Well, that’s just what happened to my client. His debit card was taken from his truck. The unknown thief used it 46 times all over town. Naturally, he reported the theft to the police, and they started an investigation. The thief was caught on camera in several locations using the card. My client, who is a 23-year old man, is nowhere to be seen in the pictures and videos of the fraudulent transactions. The thief is a trashy-looking old woman that my client has never met.
So the day after he discovered the theft, my client went to the Regions Bank branch in Citronelle and told them everything he had discovered. He even showed them a copy of the police report. What did Regions do? Nothing. They wrote him a letter saying that they had looked into his allegations and determined that every single one of the fraudulent transactions were legitimate.
What is a bank supposed to do when they are notified of the unauthorized use of a debit card? The Electronic Fund Transfers Act prescribes a simple and consumer-friendly process for handling disputes like this: the bank has 10 days to conduct an investigation. If they discover an error, they must refund all the stolen money to the consumer’s account. If they can’t finish their investigation within 10 days, they have to provisionally recredit the account. Meaning that they have to put the disputed funds back into the account while they complete their investigation.
In this case, my client’s dispute was rejected, and he lost over $6,000 because of the fraud. So we sued the bank in federal court for their violations of the Electronic Fund Transfers Act. You can find the case on PACER at 1:20-cv-00396-WS-M: Motes v. Regions Bank.
While you’re here, take a look at the photographs below, and let me know if you recognize the person in the photographs. That’s the thief we’re looking for. If we can positively identify them, we’ll take them to court as well for identity theft.