A Bedford woman reached out to NBC 5 Responds after she said she had trouble disputing thousands of dollars in fraudulent charges made on her prepaid debit card.
Read on to learn how she got her money back and best practices to make sure you’re protected.
An Unauthorized Shopping Spree
After her prepaid debit card was declined at a restaurant, Jerri Perez looked up her account information and found her balance at zero dollars.
Perez said she still had possession of her prepaid debit card and no one else had access to her account. Perez said she couldn’t make sense of charges at stores across North Texas totaling $5,928.13.
“They went to Plano, Dallas, they went to Flower Mound, Coppell, Arlington, they went everywhere,” said Perez.
Perez said the charges hit her account between December 24 and December 27.
Perez filed a report with Bedford Police and said she contacted her prepaid debit card provider, Netspend, to dispute the charges.
Perez showed NBC 5 Responds letters from Netspend offering a provisional credit for three of the charges, adding up to $1,263.24. A second letter said Netspend determined there was no error and the $4,664.89 in charges would stand.
“I went weeks without having any money. So, I wasn't able to pay my bills on time,” said Perez.
NBC 5 Responds asked Netspend about Perez’s case. A spokesperson said its customer service team was able to resolve the issue and Perez confirmed Netspend credited her account with the rest of the disputed charges.
In an email to NBC 5 responds, a Netspend spokesperson wrote, “Protecting our customers’ accounts and providing them with access to their funds is of paramount importance at Netspend. We work directly with all customers who report issues with their account and take the necessary steps in our fraud process to review, return funds and assist them in restoring access to their accounts as quickly as possible. Netspend also works with local, state, and federal agencies and law enforcement to assist in their efforts to combat criminal activity. We encourage all of our customers to report any suspicious activity or difficulty accessing their funds to our customer service department.”
Report Suspicious Activity Immediately
Christina Tetreault, an attorney on the Consumer Reports financial services team, said consumers should contact their financial provider immediately.
“There should be information in the app or on the card about who you need to call,” said Tetreault. “You need to do that right away because if you don't act right away, your losses could increase.”
You won't be liable for more than $50 in unauthorized charges if you report the problem to the card issuer within two days of discovering it. If you wait up to 60 days, you could lose up to $500.
Tetreault said the financial provider has 10 days to investigate disputed charges. If there isn’t a determination by 10 days, the provider owes the consumer a provisional credit and the provider then has 45 days to make a final determination.
If you’re not satisfied with the final decision, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It can facilitate communication between the consumer and financial provider to help resolve disputes.
To get those protections, consumers must register their card with the financial provider when they get it.
Monitor Your Account
Tetreault recommends closely monitoring your account activity by setting account alerts so you can monitor charges. Additionally, set up two-factor authentication to help guard your account against hackers.
“It's really important that consumers set up two-factor authentication on their accounts, that they set up the account alerts and that if something seems off, that they really investigate, check and stay on top of their accounts,” said Tetreault.
Perez said she is still not sure how a stranger got access to her account.
Bedford Police told NBC 5 Responds it’s not clear if Perez’s account information was pulled from a card skimmer at a gas pump. Bedford Police said the account information could have been compromised other ways and Perez’s case remains an open investigation.
NBC 5 Responds is committed to researching your concerns and recovering your money. Our goal is to get you answers and, if possible, solutions and a resolution. Call us at 844-5RESPND (844-573-7763) or fill out our customer complaint form.