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How to Stop Automatic Account Debits – Banks Must Comply

Troubled by automatic withdrawals from your bank account? Know your rights.
Troubled by automatic withdrawals from your bank account? Know your rights.
April 18, 2013

RICHMOND, Va. - April is National Financial Literacy Month, and one group would like Virginians to know that if they have ever tried to stop automatic debits from their bank account, only to be given the run-around by the bank, they do have recourse.

Dana Wiggins is the director of outreach and financial advocacy for the Virginia Poverty Law Center (VPLC). She said her office has been flooded with calls from people who have tried to stop their bank account from being automatically debited, only to be told by their bank that there is nothing the bank can do.

"It's really important to know that you can stop automatic debits from your bank account," she said, "especially if you haven't authorized them or if you've withdrawn authorization. It's important to know that you do have rights."

According to federal law, people have the right to stop any electronic authorizations with their bank or credit union, Wiggins said. But people are often told by their banks they must get the company to stop debiting the account, which can prove difficult when it comes to companies like payday lenders or other on-line lenders. She recommended that those needing help contact www.virginiafairloans.org or call the VPLC hotline, 866-830-4501.

Wiggins said an important first step to stop automatic withdrawals from your account is to tell the lender or the party that is automatically debiting that you wish to withdraw authorization, meaning you no longer give them permission to debit your bank account. You can do it verbally or, she suggested, it is best is to put it in writing - in an email or on paper - and copy your bank on the letter.

"Then, you want to go to the bank and say, 'Here's a copy of the withdrawal notice that I have sent to these lenders; I want to be sure that they aren't trying to debit from my account after I've withdrawn the authorization, so I would like you to also stop allowing them to debit from my account,'" Wiggins said.

In some cases, Wiggins added, people did not even authorize their accounts to be debited, and they are not able to reach anyone to withdraw the authorization.

Closing your bank account is also an option, she said. She suggested that people who have trouble with their bank file complaints with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at www.consumerfinance.gov.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - VA