Credit card fraud

From: Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

How credit card fraud happens

Credit card fraud happens when someone steals or uses without your permission your credit card or credit card information. Your information or your card is used to:

  • make a purchase in a store
  • make a purchase or transaction online
  • make a purchase or transaction by telephone
  • withdraw cash from an automated teller machine (ATM)

A person might steal your credit card information by:

  • looking for bank statements or information in your trash or mailbox hacking into computers of companies and stealing credit card information, such as your Internet service company or your gym
  • installing small devices on payment terminals that record your credit card information
  • sending you a fraudulent email asking for your credit card information (also called phishing)
  • asking you to use your credit card on an illegitimate website to make a purchase

Protect yourself from credit card fraud

All credit cards issued in Canada now have a computer chip that makes transactions more secure. The computer chip works with your PIN to make sure you give permission for each transaction. This helps protect you against fraud if someone steals your credit card. Credit cards with computer chips also have magnetic stripes. They may be used in countries that don’t have chip-reading technology.

There are also certain actions you may take to protect yourself from credit card fraud. Follow these tips to protect your credit card and your personal information.

Keep your PIN secret

Choose a PIN that is hard to guess. For example, avoid using your birthday, Social Insurance Number, address or telephone number.

Be sure to keep your PIN secret by:

  • never sharing your PIN with another person. Don’t even share it with a family member or partner
  • memorizing your PIN rather than writing it down. If you write it down, keep it in a safe place away from your credit card
  • changing your PIN often

Some financial institutions offer the ability to pay with a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet. Even with this payment method, you must always keep your PIN secret.

Learn how to protect yourself from unauthorized mobile payments.

Protect yourself in public places

Protect yourself from credit card fraud in public places:

  • keep your credit card in a safe place
  • limit the number of credit cards you carry with you
  • hide the keypad with your hand or body when you are entering your PIN, at an ATM or payment terminal 
  • keep your credit card in sight at all times when making a purchase
  • report anything you think is suspicious about a payment terminal or an ATM. Contact the business’s head office and your credit card issuer

Protect yourself at home

Protect yourself from credit card fraud at home:

  • put a lock on your mailbox. This will prevent someone from stealing your credit card statements or replacement cards
  • sign the back of a new credit card immediately after you get it
  • destroy old credit cards that are no longer valid by cutting them up
  • keep your credit card statements in a safe place
  • get written confirmation from your credit card issuer when you cancel your card

Protecting yourself online

Protect yourself from credit card fraud online:

  • use only secure websites when sharing personal information or buying something online. Look for websites with addresses starting with “https” or with a padlock image in the address bar
  • keep your computer firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware systems up to date
  • don’t give your credit card information over email as it isn’t secure
  • avoid using public computers at libraries or Internet cafés to do your banking or online shopping
  • if you must use a public computer, clear the history and cache of the computer when you finish using it

Protect yourself over the telephone

Legitimate credit card companies don’t ask for personal information over the phone. Contact your issuer using the telephone number on the back of your card. Don’t use telephone numbers provided in an email or by anybody other than your credit card issuer.

Protect yourself from credit card fraud over the telephone:

  • avoid giving out credit card information over the telephone in public
  • only give your credit card information to a company you trust
  • request further information from someone who calls asking for credit card information

Make sure a company is legitimate before giving it your information. If you’re not sure, hang up and contact the Better Business Bureau.

Find your Better Business Bureau.

Additional tips to protect yourself

To better protect yourself from credit card fraud, you may also:

  • make a list of your credit cards with the phone numbers to call in case of theft or loss
  • never lend your credit card
  • keep any convenience cheques given to you by your credit card issuer in a safe place
  • report a lost or stolen card to your credit card issuer immediately
  • review your credit card statement monthly
  • report any transactions you didn’t make or approve to your credit card issuer immediately
  • check your credit report at least once a year and immediately report any errors

If you're a victim of credit card fraud

If you think you’re a victim of credit card fraud, contact your financial institution immediately.

You may then proceed as follows:

  1. write down what happened and how you first noticed the fraud
  2. contact your credit card issuer to tell them about the fraud
  3. take note of whom you talked to and when you spoke to them
  4. keep all documents that you think might be helpful if the police investigate the fraud
  5. contact your local police service to file a complaint
  6. if you believe a company (for example, your telephone company) has been hacked, contact it

Put a fraud alert

You may also contact Canada’s two main credit reporting agencies; Equifax and TransUnion. Ask them to place a fraud alert on your file. Ask for copies of your credit report, review them and report any incorrect information.

Learn more about how to order your credit card report.

Report the fraud to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre

The Canadian Anti-fraud Centre includes partners from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Ontario Provincial Police and the Competition Bureau of Canada. It is the central repository for information about fraud.

Contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

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