Debit card fraud

From: Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

How debit card fraud happens

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

  • make a purchase in a store
  • make a purchase or transaction online
  • withdraw cash from an automated teller machine (ATM)
  • withdraw money with an in-store purchase

A person might steal your debit card information by:

  • swiping your debit card through a device that copies the information stored on the magnetic stripe on the back of your card
  • looking at your personal identification number (PIN) over your shoulder when you’re using your debit card
  • sending you a fraudulent email asking for your banking information (also called phishing)
  • using a device that jams your card in an ATM. A helpful stranger then suggests that you try to put in your PIN a few times. When the card remains jammed, this person later removes your card and has your PIN

Protect yourself from debit card fraud

Debit cards issued by financial institutions 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.

There are also certain actions you may take to protect yourself from debit card fraud. Follow these tips to protect your debit 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 as your PIN.

Be sure to keep your PIN secret:

  • never share your PIN with another person. Do not even share it with a family member or partner
  • memorize your PIN rather than writing it down. If you write it down, keep it in a safe place, away from your card or wallet
  • 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 someone, you may be responsible for transactions you haven’t made or approved.

Reduce your daily limit

A daily limit is the amount of money you may spend or withdraw from your account each day. It applies to both ATMs and in-store transactions.

Contact your financial institution if you think your limit is too high.

Protect your debit card and your debit card information

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

  • keep your debit card in a safe place
  • never lend your debit card
  • insert your card rather than swiping it during a purchase
  • hide the terminal or ATM keypad when you enter your PIN
  • keep your debit card in sight at all times when making a purchase
  • take your debit card and transaction receipt with you once you’ve finished a transaction
  • retrieve your card quickly after a transaction. Complete your transactions before answering anyone trying to get your attention
  • check your account statements often to make sure all transactions are correct
  • keep paper and electronic copies of your account statements and put them in a safe place
  • contact your financial institution right away if your card is lost, stolen or stuck in an ATM

If you're a victim of debit card fraud

If you’re a victim of debit card fraud, take the following steps:

  1. write down what happened and how you first noticed the fraud
  2. contact your financial institution right away 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 when 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

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.

Related links

Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: