Debit card surprise drains woman's bank account

Don't Waste Your Money

If you have a debit card linked to your checking account, we have an important warning.

Wait till you see what one surprise charge did to one woman. And it could happen to you if you are not careful.

Unexpected Charge

It's a nightmare scenario for everyone with a debit card: an unexpected charge hits your account, draining it to zero.

It just happened to Ellen Sears. "I went to make a withdrawal, and they told me I didn't have any money in there," she said.

Her account empty, she started bouncing checks.

"Actually the whole total that I am out is $134. That's with three debit transactions I did not authorize, and then three overdraft fees on top of it."

Alerts on her phone showed overdraft fee after overdraft fee, all due to an unexpected charge for identity theft protection.

"The biggest one was my electric bill," she said.

Risk of Using One Account for Everything

That's a disadvantage of linking your debit card to your main bank account that you use for your rent, electric bill, and everything else.

One unexpected withdrawal and you can be wiped out.

So we called her credit union, and learned she had OK'd ID theft protection when she recently bought a new computer.

She doesn't recall it.

"I should not have to pay for somebody else's transactions, and I should not have to pay these three overdraft fees," she said.

Good news: The credit union agreed to remove the overdraft fees after we got involved.

What You Need to Know

But there's a lesson here: If you use a debit card linked to your checking account:

  • Monitor your account daily.
  • Set up alerts on your phone.
  • Link your account to a savings account or credit card for backup protection.

"I work too hard for my money for somebody to just up and do that," Sears said.

But unexpected withdrawals can happen, so you need to protect yourself, especially if you live paycheck to paycheck, and one unexpected charge can wipe you out.

That way you don't waste your money.
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Don't Waste Your Money is a registered trademark of the EW Scripps Co.

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