Dear ABC News Fixer: My Debit Card Went Missing...

PHOTO: A sign for a Sovereign Bank branch stands in Oreland, Pennsylvania in this October 13, 2008 file photo.Mike Mergen/Bloomberg News
A sign for a Sovereign Bank branch stands in Oreland, Pennsylvania in this October 13, 2008 file photo.

Dear ABC News Fixer: On Feb. 13, I realized my ATM/debit card was missing.

I immediately went to my local Sovereign Bank branch. They put me on the phone with someone who said they would mail me dispute papers. As of today I am still waiting.

Meanwhile, someone made several purchases with the card and overdrew my account at least 14 times. Each time, I got an overdraft fee of $35. Even after I had the card stopped, the bank kept paying the purchases and kept charging fees. I went to the branch several times and they continued to tell me to wait for the mail.

Then my Social Security check was direct-deposited on Feb. 28. Since my account was overdrawn well over $600, the bank took my check.

I am 70-years-old and I need my Social Security money to live. I also do not need the stress and worry this has put on me.

- Phillip Cerelli, Haverton, Pa.

Dear Phillip: You told the ABC News Fixer you had been home sick in the days before Feb. 13. When you felt better and went to an ATM to get cash, you discovered that your card had vanished.

You did the smart thing and reported it to your bank branch right away. But they had bad news for you: Your account was already overdrawn and fees had been added. After that, more transactions posted to your account and more overdraft fees kept coming until Feb. 20.

Knowing that federal banking laws limit a consumer's liability if they report a missing card quickly, the ABC News Fixer asked Sovereign Bank if they could take another look at your account.

The good news is they quickly investigated and fixed this, crediting back $633.93.

A spokeswoman said the bank did deactivate the card on Feb. 13, but some of the fraudulent purchases were already in the pipeline and posted after that date. The bank ended up removing those and also took off the overdraft fees associated with those transactions.

And you heaved a big sigh of relief.

Now that this is fixed, you should think carefully about whether you want overdraft protection at all.

Many banks push these programs because they're huge money-makers. But consumer advocates complain that some banks reorder transactions to collect as many fees as possible. Ask yourself: Is it worth potentially paying multiple $35 fees for a small error?

And a word for the rest of us about lost or stolen debit cards: If you report the loss before a thief uses it, you have zero liability. If you report it within two days, your liability is $50; between two and 60 days, your liability is $500; and after 60 days you could lose everything. (Credit card liability is capped at $50.)

For more on what to do if your wallet is lost or stolen, CLICK HERE.

Got a consumer problem? The ABC News Fixer may be able to help. Click here to submit your problem online. Letters are edited for length and clarity.

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