The Case of the Stolen EFT Card

A bank customer standing in line one evening to buy some theater tickets, discovered, when he got to the window, that his wallet was missing. In the jostling crowd, a professional pickpocket, Jimmy the Lift, had deftly removed the wallet, which contained several credit cards and a bank electronic fund transfer (EFT) card and personal identification number (PIN). The victim immediately called the credit card companies to notify them of the loss, but did not call the bank, on the assumption that it was closed.

Jimmy the Lift, being conversant with electronic banking, made his first stop at a nearby branch of his victim’s bank. He let himself into the bank’s 24-hour vestibule with the card, then withdrew $300, the maximum permitted in cash withdrawals at one time.

The next morning the victim called the bank as soon as it opened for business. Because he notified the bank within 48 hours of his loss, his personal liability was limited to $50 and the bank restored the remainder of $250 to his account.

Not so alert, or fortunate, was another of Jimmy’s targets, who also lost his EFT card and PIN to Jimmy’s educated hands. Unlike the first victim, this man neglected to notify his bank, and Jimmy made off with his savings as well as $1,000 from his automatic line of credit. Moreover, because the victim did not look at the bank statement on which these withdrawals appeared, but simply filed it away for examination several months later, he could not recover any of the stolen money. Since more than 60 days had by then elapsed between the time the bank sent him the statement and he reported the error, his liability was unlimited. (See discussion of Electronic Funds Transfer Act)

Moral: Never carry both your EFT card and your PIN together in your wallet or purse, and notify your bank immediately if your card has been stolen or misplaced.