Action 9 investigates debit card pitfalls

A Casselberry woman discovered how risky a debit card can be. Scammers stole $10,000 out of her bank accounts.
A Casselberry woman discovered how risky a debit card can be. Scammers stole $10,000 out of her bank accounts.
When the bank didn't refund her after two weeks, she called Action 9 consumer investigator Todd Ulrich.
Karen Kelly scrambled to protect her bank accounts. “My heart sank. I was negative $6,000. I was over that,” Kelly said.
In just a few hours, Kelly’s checking and savings accounts were wiped out.
“It took all from my savings.  So, I'm just out of cash,” Kelly said.
Somehow, the bad guys stole her SunTrust debit card number. Kelly suspects it was skimmed at a gas station.
Then, 800 miles away at a Verizon Wireless store, someone rang up a $4,700 charge.
“To me that's an unusual amount and someone should have called me right away,” Kelly said.
Three hours later, another Verizon charge hit for nearly $5,000. The scammers total haul was close to $10,000. Kelly called SunTrust, filed a police report and expected a full refund. But almost three weeks later, she had not received anything, so she contacted Action 9.
“I already signed everything. Why is the money not back in my account?” Kelly asked.
When a consumer’s credit card is compromised, money is not instantly lost. But with debit cards, scammers have direct access to bank accounts.
Federal law limits debit card losses to $50 if the loss is reported within two days. But a bank has 10 business days to investigate, and if it finds fraud, it must refund the money within 24 hours. That can seem like an eternity when buying groceries and paying bills with no cash.
“The time it takes to get those funds returned could be quite lengthy. In the meantime, you might need those funds to pay important bills,” said BBB President Holly Salmons.
With holidays and weekends, Kelly’s money was gone for 17 days.
The day Ulrich contacted SunTrust managers, most of her money was refunded to her account. She's still missing more than $1,000.
So, I hope they are going to do the right thing,” Kelly said.
Consumer experts suggest caution when using debit cards at gas stations and standalone ATMs.
Debit card customers who choose credit when paying are still not protected from fraud like they would be using a credit card.