Credit card fraud

From Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

How credit card fraud happens

Credit card fraud happens when someone steals your credit card, credit card information or personal identification number (PIN) and uses it without your permission to:

  • make a purchase at a place of business
  • make a purchase or transaction online
  • make a purchase or transaction by telephone
  • withdraw money from an automated teller machine (ATM)

A person can steal your credit card or credit card information by:

  • going through your garbage or mailbox to find credit card statements or other banking information
  • swiping your credit card through a device that copies the information stored on the magnetic stripe of your card
  • hacking into the computers of companies and stealing credit card information
  • installing small devices on payment terminals that record your credit card information
  • phishing, that is, sending you an email that looks like it comes from a real business asking for credit card information
  • asking you to use your credit card on an illegitimate website to make a “purchase”

Prevent credit card fraud

Prevent credit card fraud by protecting your credit card and your personal information.

Chip cards

In Canada, all federally regulated financial institutions must decline any magnetic stripe transactions.

All newly issued Canadian credit cards 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 card.

Credit cards with computer chips still have magnetic stripes. This is so you may use them in countries that don’t have chip-reading technology.

Keep your PIN secret

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

Make sure you do the following to keep your PIN secret:

  • never share your PIN with another person, not even a family member or partner
  • try to memorize your PIN rather than writing it down
  • if you write it down, make sure you keep it in a safe place away from your credit card
  • change your PIN often

Some financial institutions offer the ability to pay with a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet. Keep your mobile device password and credit card PIN secret to prevent transactions you didn’t make or approve.

Learn how to prevent transactions you didn't make or approve while using mobile payments.

Tips to prevent credit card fraud

Remember these tips when using your credit card in public places or at places of business:

  • keep your credit card in a safe place
  • limit the number of credit cards you carry with you
  • cover the keypad with your hand or body when entering your PIN so no one can see it
  • keep your credit card in sight at all times when making a purchase
  • report anything you think is suspicious about a credit card device at a business or ATM to the business’s head office and your credit card issuer

At home

Protect yourself from credit card fraud at home by doing the following:

  • lock your mailbox if you can to 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
  • shred credit card statements when you no longer need them

Online

When banking or shopping online, look for websites with addresses starting with “https” or ones that have a padlock image on the address bar. These are signs that your information will be secure.

Protect yourself from credit card fraud online by also doing the following:

  • use only trusted and secure websites when sharing personal information or buying something online
  • keep your computer firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware systems up to date
  • avoid giving 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
  • clear the history and cache of the computer when you finish your session if you’re using a public computer

Over the telephone

Legitimate credit card companies don’t ask for personal information over the phone. Use the telephone number found on the back of your card when you want to contact your credit card issuer.

Protect yourself from credit card fraud when on the telephone by also doing the following:

  • avoid giving out credit card information over the phone if you're in a public place or you think somebody else may be listening
  • only give your credit card information to a company you trust
  • request further information from someone who calls asking for credit card information

If you're unsure that the company that is calling and requesting your credit card information is legitimate, hang up and contact the Better Business Bureau.

In general

Protect yourself from becoming a victim of credit card fraud by:

  • keeping a list of cards you carry in a safe place, including phone numbers to call, in case any of your cards are lost or stolen
  • keeping any convenience cheques given to you by your credit card issuer in a safe place
  • reporting a lost or stolen card to your credit card issuer immediately
  • reviewing your credit card statement monthly
  • reporting any transactions you didn’t make or approve to your credit card issuer immediately
  • getting written confirmation from your credit card issuer when you cancel your credit card
  • checking your credit report at least once a year for errors

Steps to take if you’ve lost your credit card

If you lose your credit card, notify your bank immediately. Upon notification, the bank should cancel your lost credit card and reissue a new one.

Other things you can do:

  • regularly monitor your credit card statements for any transactions that you didn't make
  • carry your cards in a safe place
  • keep a list of your bank and credit card numbers in a safe place at home for reference purposes

What to do if you’re a victim of credit card fraud

Contact your financial institution immediately if your credit card is lost or stolen. Contact it if you find payments on your credit card statement that you didn’t make or approve.

If you think you’re a victim of credit card fraud:

  • write down what happened and how you first noticed the fraud
  • contact your credit card issuer to tell them about the fraud
  • take notes of who you talked to and when you spoke to them
  • keep all documents that you think might be helpful when the police investigate the fraud
  • contact your local police service to file a complaint
  • contact other accounts (for example, your phone company) that could be tampered with by the person

Put a fraud alert on your credit report

You may also contact Canada’s two 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 how to order your credit report.

Report the fraud to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre operates through a partnership of the RCMP, the Ontario Provincial Police and the Competition Bureau. It’s the central Canadian agency that collects information on economic crime.

Contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

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