By Kurtis Ming

If you’re on Social Security, you most likely get your benefits through a debit card.

When a Placerville senior had fraudulent charges on her account and couldn’t get her money, she called Kurtis.

In March, the federal government started requiring people to get their federal benefits through direct deposit or on debit cards.

So what do you do if a crook drains your debit card before you access your money?

Getting her social security benefits through the US Direct Express debit card, Maggie Giono noticed in mid-June. more than $824 in fraudulent charges on her government issued debit card.

“You get so upset, you feel so violated,” said Maggie.

Maggie filed a police report and a fraud report with US Direct Express and was told the investigation could take 45 to 90 days.

In the meantime, she was without her $824.

“It was very hard, I couldn’t pay my rent, I couldn’t pay my bills,” said Maggie.

The law protects all debit card users from fraud.

But the law says banks have 10 days to put the money back in your account, on a provisional basis if the investigation isn’t completed yet.

Yes… 10 days even with government issued debit cards, which Maggie thinks is too long!

“That was my only source of income,” said Maggie.

The banking industry says it’s quicker than if something happened with the old fashioned form of payment.

“If you have.. a check got stolen in the mail, a lot of times… a lot more complicated and difficult to get those funds back for the consumer,” said Beth Mills, Vice President Communications, California Bankers Association.

But in this case, Maggie says it took six weeks to get her money back… much longer than the federal 10 day law.

Comerica Nank handles the nation’s debit cards.

We wanted to know what happened?

Comerica wouldn’t say but said “We apologize for any inconvenience the customer experienced during the investigation.”

Maggie is glad to finally get her social security benefits.

“It’s a slice of heaven up here,” said Maggie.

Not needing this type of stress in retirement, she’s now switched… getting her benefits through direct deposit.

“I’ll never do a debit card again. This is no more than a debit card from Wal-Mart basically,” said Maggie.

The Social Security Administration tells us their debit cards and direct deposit payment methods are still the “safest and most convenient way” to get your benefits.

While Comerica Bank handles the nation’s social security debit cards, Bank of America issues debit cards for unemployment benefits here in California.

The US Treasury tells us these electronic payments cost the government about nine cents while a check costs a dollar.

If your bank isn’t following the rules, you can file a complaint with the Federal Reserve’s consumer help team or with the US Treasury.

Federal Reserve Consumer Help

(888) 851-1920


US Treasury

Public Affairs (202) 874-6740


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