Debit card fraud

From Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

How debit card fraud happens

Debit card fraud is when someone steals both your personal identification number (PIN) and debit card or debit card information and uses it without your permission to:

  • withdraw cash from an automated teller machine (ATM)
  • make purchases in stores
  • make purchases online

A person can only commit debit card fraud if they know your PIN.

A person can steal you debit card information by:

  • swiping your debit card through a device that reads and records information from the magnetic stripe on your card
  • looking at your PIN number over your shoulder when you are using your debit card
  • sending emails that claim to be from your bank asking for banking information, also called Phishing
  • using a device that jams your card in an ATM and having a helpful stranger suggest that you try to put in your PIN a few times so that, after you leave, they remove your card and have your PIN
  • copying your debit card information and your PIN using fake machines at places of business so that when you enter your information, it isn’t sent to your financial institution

Prevent debit card fraud

Prevent debit card fraud by protecting your debit PIN and information.

Chip cards

Debit cards issued by federally regulated financial institutions have a computer chip that makes transactions more secure than cards that only store your information on a magnetic stripe. 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.

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
  • contact your financial institution and change your PIN immediately if you suspect someone knows it

If you share your PIN with another person, you will usually be responsible for transactions made by them.

Reduce your daily limit

A daily limit is the amount of money you can spend or withdraw from your accounts each day at an ATM or at a business.

Contact your financial institution if you think your limit is too high. Your financial institution may lower it. This can help decrease the amount of money that someone can steal through debit card fraud.

Tips to prevent debit card fraud

Remember these tips when using your debit card:

  • keep your debit card in a safe place
  • never lend your debit card to anyone
  • never give your PIN to anyone
  • cover the keypad with your hand or body when entering your PIN so no one can see it
  • keep your debit card in sight at all times when using it to pay for something
  • take your debit card and transaction receipt with you once you have finished a transaction at an ATM or at a business
  • complete your transaction and retrieve your card before answering anyone trying to get your attention at an ATM
  • check your account statements often to make sure all transactions are correct and were made by you
  • contact your financial institution right away if your card is lost, stolen or stuck in an ATM
  • contact your financial institution as soon as possible if you think someone knows your PIN

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

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

  • write down what happened and how you first noticed the fraud
  • contact your financial institution to tell them about the fraud
  • take note 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

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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