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Q. Last year, I found out someone "hot carded" my debit card and racked up $7,600 in charges. I filed a Regulation E claim on that day, and a police report. Ever since then I've been going back and forth with TD Bank trying to get my money back. They denied me two times, and now the detective from the police department won't even call me back.
There were multiple purchases ranging from $20 to $1,200. I never once received a phone call inquiring about these purchases from the bank. The majority of them occurred in the Bronx, N.Y., including purchases at Target, AutoZone, Sleepy's and McDonald's. I'm 24-years-old and it took me a very long time to save that money. I've been living check-to-check making ends meet since then. I take my credit score very seriously, and this has started to affect it adversely. How do I go against a bank?
A. Deniz, I know at this point you've been back and forth with the bank several times, but I reached out to them as well. Unfortunately, I didn't make much progress – they were unwilling to discuss your account with me for privacy reasons. But when I asked why a claim might be denied, Rebecca Acevedo, a company spokesperson, had this to say:
"Claims would be denied if after a thorough investigation there wasn't sufficient evidence to prove there was any type of fraud on an account. TD Bank has robust fraud detection procedures in place, and we take the matter very seriously. We continue to advise customers to protect their PIN numbers, read their statements and check their transactions regularly, and, if they do see something suspicious, contact us immediately. If customers are not satisfied with the results of a claim, they can take the appropriate outside actions they feel are appropriate."
My suggestion is to absolutely take those "outside actions," particularly because this is a hefty sum of money. I spoke to Yvonne Rosmarin, a consumer lawyer in Massachusetts. Without knowing the specifics, she could only speak generally, but she told me that if you reported this fraud within two business days of learning about it, your liability should be limited to the lesser of $50 or the total amount of the charges.
So here's what you should do: First, find a good lawyer, because on your own you've hit a wall and you're not going to get anything out of the bank without legal representation. You can find a lawyer who specializes in these kinds of issues through the search feature of the National Association of Consumer Advocates. Let that person know the dates involved in your case, because Rosmarin says there is generally a one-year statute of limitations on this, and yours is very close to running out.
Then, write the bank and ask for all of the documentation they used to deny your claim. Legally, you have a right under the Electronic Funds Transfer Act and Regulation E to request documentation that shows the fraud transactions, including electronic terminal receipts, terminal locations, the identification code used and the types of transactions. Rosmarin says to make the request by a letter sent by certified mail with a return receipt. Keep careful documentation, including a photocopy of that letter with both the mailing and return receipts from the post office and a log of who you've spoken to at the bank and police station, with names, dates and content of the conversations.
Finally, think back to the days and times those fraudulent charges were made, and see if you have some sort of reason why you couldn't possibly have made them – an alibi of sorts. Maybe you were at work, and human resources can confirm that. Maybe you had a doctor's appointment, or you were in class at school, or you were even shopping elsewhere at the time and can show your receipt. All of these things will work in your favor when it comes time to bring your case.
Consumer Ally problem solver Jean Chatzky is the "Today Show" financial adviser, a longtime financial journalist and best-selling author.
TD Bank won't refund fraudulent charges: Help Me, WalletPop!