Credit Advice

The impact of fraud alerts when checks and debit cards or stolen

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Credit Advice

The impact of fraud alerts when checks and debit cards or stolen

Dear Experian,

My debit card and checks are being taken without my knowledge and being used. What can I do to protect myself? To stop everything the bank charges you money, of course. The retailer obviously doesn't check identification. What are my options? My bank account was drained. Who do I turn to? I thought the fraud alert helped.

- SGT

Dear SGT,

A fraud alert on your credit report will not help in your case because none of the things that are happening involve a credit report.

Fraud alerts and credit file freezes only play a part when someone applies for new credit, which results in your credit report being accessed. The business will receive the alert with the credit report, or in the case of a frozen file will be notified that the credit file must be un-frozen before a report can be provided.

Bank accounts, including checking and savings accounts, are not part of a credit report, so the credit reporting companies have no record of those types of relationships or transactions.

Debit cards are used to make payments directly from your checking account. They are not credit transactions, so are not part of your credit report, either.

Another mistaken belief is that your credit report is accessed each time you swipe your credit card at the store or enter the number at in Internet site to make an online purchase. That is not true.

Your credit report is not accessed when you use an existing account. Because your credit report is not accessed, a fraud alert cannot provide any protection from someone stealing your credit card and using it to buy things.

The first thing you should do is file a police report so that you have official documentation that you are a fraud victim. I’m not sure why your bank would charge you to close your accounts if you are a fraud victim. In most cases that I’m aware of they will close your accounts immediately and open a new account for you. In a case of fraud they are losing money, too, so it is in their best interest to close the accounts and stop the activity. Many will even refund money taken from a debit card if it is proven that it was used fraudulently.

There is not enough information in your question to speculate as to why your bank has a different policy or is taking a different position in your case. I suggest contacting your bank and asking them to waive any fees because fraud is occurring, and ask them if there is anything you need to do so that they can waive any fees.

You seem to indicate that the theft is on-going, so please take action today!

Thanks for asking.

- The "Ask Experian" team

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