On billing errors, debit card fraud, credit reports and mortgage help
Consumers sometimes come to the FDIC with questions about their bank accounts or their rights and responsibilities. Here are examples and answers you may find useful.
There is a billing error (e.g., an incorrect amount or a transaction I didn't make) on my credit card statement. What should I do?
The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) requires a consumer who is reporting a billing error — including a fraudulent transaction — to write to the credit card issuer at the address for billing disputes noted on the monthly statement. While not required by law, it's also a good idea to try to work out a dispute with the merchant before filing a dispute, and to call the bank right away to report a fraudulent transaction.
In general, the creditor must resolve the dispute within 90 days after getting your letter. However, the FDIC has received complaints from consumers who say they experienced problems getting issues resolved.
In some situations, the consumer incorrectly mailed the dispute letter to the card issuer's address for payments instead of the one for error disputes. "Make sure the card issuer receives your written dispute at the correct address within 60 days of when it sent your billing statement, and you may want to use certified mail as proof of your dispute," suggested Kirk Daniels, an FDIC Supervisory Consumer Affairs Specialist.
In other examples, consumers called, faxed or e-mailed about their dispute instead of submitting a letter. If your card issuer allows you to report a billing error securely online, print a copy for your records.
Finally, some consumers have said that, for fraudulent transactions, their card issuer required a copy of a police report to consider the dispute. Although it may be a good idea to report identity theft or similar incidents to the police, the FCBA does not require it, and there is no guarantee the police will conduct an investigation or issue a report.
A thief used my debit card to withdraw money from my checking account, but I'm being told I am responsible for the loss. Why?
The Electronic Fund Transfer Act limits your liability for unauthorized transactions to $50 if your debit card was lost or stolen or you saw an unauthorized transaction from your account and you notify the bank within two business days. "But if you wait more than two business days, you may be responsible for up to $500 or even more," said Daniels.
Some banks may voluntarily waive liability if you took reasonable care to avoid fraud or theft, but you still need to report errors promptly. And as described previously for credit card errors, it may be wise to first seek a refund from the merchant or report a theft to the police, but you are not required to do so by law.
What's the best way to get a copy of my credit reports and credit score?
To order the free credit report authorized by law from each of the three main credit bureaus every 12 months, go to www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call 1-877-322-8228.
One of the reasons it's important to check your credit report is to look for mistakes. As a new FTC study suggests, a sizable percentage of consumers had errors on their credit reports that could damage their credit scores and increase costs for products such as consumer loans and various kinds of insurance.
Also consider spreading out your requests so you receive one credit report approximately every four months.
As for credit scores, various sources prepare them based on the information in your credit report. Under the law, you can get your credit score free from your lender but only in certain circumstances.
My mortgage loan is past due. Where can I go for help?
Contact your lender or your mortgage servicer right away. If you need help working with your lender, you can receive free or low-cost assistance from a housing counselor approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. For a referral, call HUD at 1-800-569-4287 or visit www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/hcc/hcs.cfm. For more information, including how to avoid foreclosure scams, see tips from the FDIC at www.fdic.gov/consumers/loans/prevention/toolkit.html.