If your money is locked up with Direct Express, or they won’t give you access to it, or there has been some kind of fraud or hacking of your account, you may feel totally helpless. Some people report difficulty even getting a hold of the company to complain about it. So what can you do if you’re stuck in this situation?

Our lawyers may be able to help. We use a federal law called the Electronic Funds Transfer Act (also called EFTA) to get back people’s money when banks won’t give it to them voluntarily. That law is designed to protect consumers – and along with something called “Regulation E,” it sets out the rules for what banks can and can’t do when you try to transfer your money electronically.

One of the big benefits of the EFTA law is that it makes a bank pay your attorney’s fees if you win. This means we can ordinarily take this kind of case on a contingent fee basis if it falls within the law, so you would only pay any attorney’s fees if you win. While we can’t guarantee results, when there is a clear violation of EFTA most of our clients get back their money and a little more. Clients who have had their lives severely disrupted by losing access to funds that were rightfully theirs can sometimes recover even larger amounts, but again, there are no guarantees. If you’re looking for a lawyer to help try to get your funds out of a Direct Express account, CLICK HERE

What are the EFTA rules?

Direct Express has actually been sued several times for allegedly violating the Electronic Funds Transfer Act, including in a class action. EFTA gives the consumer between $100 and $1,000 as a penalty for any violations, and sometimes even more. There are also state laws that often forbid unfair practices that can help consumers as well – for example, in California, the Unfair Competition Law, and in Texas, the Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

Many customers are saying that it takes a ridiculously long amount of time to get on the phone with someone at Direct Express whenever they have some problem getting access to their funds. That’s not unique to this bank: we’re seeing it across the banking industry, and so are other consumer protection groups. Banks often outsource their customer service these days, or use automated phone systems that just keep you on hold or send you in circles.

So what should you do?

First, send something in writing requesting your funds back, or challenging any charges for fraud or error. Do it via e-mail or via letter. The reason for this is that if you end up having to use an attorney, it helps us a lot to be able to prove you made the request and to prove exactly when you made it. Your phone calls might be recorded by a bank sometimes, so it doesn’t hurt to try that too, but then you don’t have your own proof of what happened.

If they won’t give you your funds, and you send them something in writing instructing them to send a certain amount of money to you (or anyone else), they could be liable under 15 U.S.C. 1693h(a)(1). There are some exceptions – for example, if you have insufficient funds, or if there is a legal hold on your money like a garnishment. But in general a bank can’t just refuse to give you your money or refuse to transfer it.

If there’s a fraudulent charge or an error, they are required to do an investigation within 45 days. Again, you want to send something to them in writing explaining exactly what transaction is fraudulent or erroneous and why. Specifically ask to see any documents they used as part of that investigation, because it separately violates the law if they don’t give it to you. And importantly, under 15 U.S.C. 1693f(c), they have to provisionally give you the money back while they’re doing the investigation, and they only have ten business days to do that.

If Direct Express won’t give you back your money, or won’t reverse a fraudulent charge or an error, then after they’ve had some time to respond to your request an attorney may be able to help you. We routinely get back money consumers thought they’d lost. Some of our clients have had serious consequences from not having their own money available to them. We’ve seen people lose jobs, businesses, or even end up homeless.

Your money is yours, and no bank should be able to keep it from you. If you’re having a problem with Direct Express, CLICK HERE. We may be able to help.