Resolving an unauthorized transaction

From Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

Recognizing an unauthorized transaction

Generally, any banking or credit card transaction that you didn't make or approve is an unauthorized transaction.

Unauthorized transactions may occur when your debit or credit card is lost or stolen. Someone could also steal your identity and use your information to make transactions without your knowledge or consent.

Each financial institution, such as a bank, may define unauthorized transactions differently. Read your credit card, debit card and account agreements carefully to make sure you understand what is considered an unauthorized transaction.

Reporting an unauthorized transaction

When you report an unauthorized transaction, banks must always thoroughly investigate the incident.

In some cases, you may need to report the incident within a specific amount of time. If not, you may not get the full amount back.

If you think your account was tampered with or is at risk of being tampered with:

  • change your passwords immediately
  • notify your bank or credit card issuer immediately and report any transactions you didn't make or approve
  • check your credit report for any credit you didn't apply for

For deposit accounts, such as chequing or savings accounts, you usually have 30 days after the date of your statement to dispute a transaction. However, this could differ from one bank to another. Check your statements regularly for any transaction you didn't make.

Paying for an unauthorized transaction

In most cases, you will not be held responsible for transactions you didn't make or approve.

Unauthorized debit card transaction

When an unauthorized transaction is made with your debit card in a store, at a point-of-sale terminal or at an ATM, you will get your money back if you took the necessary steps to protect your PIN.

These steps include:

  • keeping your PIN confidential and never sharing it with anyone, including a family member
  • avoiding a PIN that someone could easily guess like a birthday or telephone number
  • hiding your PIN while using your card at an ATM or a point-of-sale terminal
  • not keeping a written record of your PIN close to your card

You're not held responsible for losses that result from circumstances beyond your control, which include:

  • technical problems. For example, the ATM didn't give you the full amount of cash you asked for, but still deducts the requested amount from your account.
  • unauthorized transactions, as long as you didn't contribute to the loss. For example, if you shared your PIN with someone.

Unauthorized credit card transaction

When an unauthorized transaction is made with your credit card, your maxium liability, by law, can't be more than $50.00. Your credit card agreement must explain your maximum liability if your card is used without your permission.

Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Interac have committed to protect you against financial loss if your credit or debit card is used without your permission. According to this public commitment, you will not be held responsible for the unauthorized transactions and won't have to pay any fee.

Learn more about these commitments and policies.

Making a complaint about an unauthorized transaction

All federally regulated banks must have a complaint-handling process in place.

Learn how to make a complaint.

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