How to File a Complaint About an Unauthorized Withdrawal

If you realize a problem has occurred while at your bank's ATM, go right inside and take action.
If you realize a problem has occurred while at your bank's ATM, go right inside and take action. (Image: Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

You check your bank statement online and discover a problem, or it shows itself when your ATM cash withdrawal attempt comes up short. You feel violated and furious upon discovering your account has been tampered with. But as frustrating and problem-causing as it can seem, you do have solutions. Filing a complaint with your bank and other agencies regarding unauthorized usage is critical. You typically contact your bank branch first, then follow through with the fraud department, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) and so forth. Learn all you can about how to prevent such activities in the future, too, and especially use caution when providing account numbers over the Internet.

Alert your bank branch manager as soon as you discover a discrepancy. Ask for the particular steps to take or forms required to report the incident as well as for filing any specific complaint. Closing accounts may be necessary, but when you open a new account, make certain that you also get a new ATM card so the old numbers are no longer accessible by anyone.

Contact any related credit agencies about improper usage of your account and all unauthorized activity. Contact the FTC to report false usage and alert them to potential suspects, such as from a purse theft in a particular town and location.

Detail the items to document that you did not authorize a withdrawal and work with banks and all agencies to complete all forms necessary. If you did not cancel the card or close an account rapidly enough, a charge or two may have gone through, or certain dollar amounts withdrawn. Usually, though, the banks will replace the funds pursuant to your filing the complaint. The details to include are commonly the date the funds were taken out, the amount missing, the location of an ATM from which the funds were taken, an online site that you didn't authorize to remove funds, and your contact information.

Work with the banker assigned to you in the branch or through the fraud department. Sometimes the bank will take immediate action, even on weekends, by emergency routes. Check the back of your ATM card or call for an 800 number for after-hours reporting. Be patient while the process continues. You may be asked to view photographs taken at ATM machines of people making withdrawals at the time your funds were withdrawn. If you recognize someone, you'll be instructed on how to work with the police to press charges.

Tips & Warnings

  • People employed by banks realize how intrusive and upsetting it is to have such thefts occur from your account. Try not to take your frustration or anger out on the individual who is there to help you. You'll just delay the process. Be courteous with those you have to speak with by phone, and do whatever it takes to complete all forms and processes as quickly as possible.
  • Always watch for https (notice the "s" on the end which means secure) when making online transactions. Check the security of various sites and don't use your bank cards to make purchases from those sites you are not wholly confident in.
  • Read the fine-print for "one-time" purchases. You may be signing up to have repeat withdrawals made for subscriptions or items you do not want. Contact the proper authority from the organization deducting excessive amounts and report them to the FTC.

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