What should I do if my government benefit card or payroll card is lost or stolen, or if I discover unauthorized charges?
You should contact your card issuer immediately if your government benefit or payroll card is lost or stolen, or you see unauthorized charges. The sooner you report a lost card or unauthorized charges, the more protections you will have.
If you lost your card or PIN:
If you notify your card issuer within two business days of realizing that your card is lost or stolen, you can only be held responsible for up to $50 of any unauthorized transfers that occurred before you contacted your financial institution. If you wait longer than two days, you could be liable for up to $500 of unauthorized transfers that occurred before you gave notice. Make sure to report unauthorized transactions within 60 days of the issuer sending you the statement or account history showing an unauthorized transaction (or, for payroll cards only, within 60 days of accessing your account history online that shows the unauthorized transaction). If you wait longer, you could lose the full amount of any transactions that occurred after the 60-day period.
If you didn’t lose your card:
If an unauthorized transaction shows up on your account, but you did not lose your card, security code, or PIN or have any of them stolen, you should still notify your card provider right away. Under federal law, you will not be liable for the transaction if you report it within 60 days after the card issuer sends you a statement or account history that shows the unauthorized transaction (or, for payroll cards only, after you access your account history online that shows the unauthorized transaction). If the charge goes unreported for more than 60 days, your money could be lost.
Benefits that are not needs-tested and that do have the protections described above include Social Security, unemployment, and child support.
What does the card issuer have to do once I report it? Can I get my money back?
Once you notify your card issuer, they generally have ten business days to investigate the claim, or 20 business days if the account has been open less than 30 days. Your card issuer then has three business days to report their findings to you.
If the card issuer can’t complete its investigation within the required 10 or 20 business days, the issuer it must credit your account for the full disputed amount minus a maximum of $50 while the investigation continues.
The issuer may require you to provide written confirmation of the error if you initially provided the information in a phone conversation. If you are asked to follow up in writing and you do not do so within ten business days, the issuer is not required to temporarily credit your account during the course of its investigation.
Generally, the issuer must resolve the issue in 45 days. There are different times if the disputed transactions were made in a foreign country, were conducted within 30 days of account opening, or were debit card point-of-sale purchases. In those cases, you may have to wait as long as 90 days for the issue to be fully resolved.
Once the card issuer confirms an unauthorized charge, they must correct the error within one business day.
If the issuer determines that no error occurred, they can take back the money that they credited to you during the investigation. They must provide you with written notice of the date and amount of money they are reclaiming from your account.