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

If you think an unauthorized transaction was made using your card or your account, or if there is a risk of this happening:

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

In some cases, you may need to report the incident within a specific amount of time, as specified in your agreement. If you don’t, you may be held responsible for the transaction and you may not get the full amount back.

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.

When you report an unauthorized transaction, credit card issuers must always thoroughly investigate the incident.

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

You’re protected against unauthorized transactions when you use debit card services in store, at a point-of-sale terminal or at an ATM. You should immediately report any unauthorized transaction to your bank.

If you took the necessary steps to protect your PIN, you should get your money back.

You're not 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 amount requested from the account
  • unauthorized transactions, as long as you didn’t contribute to the loss by not taking the necessary steps to protect your PIN

You could be responsible for losses in situations where you contribute to or encourage unauthorized use of your card.

You could be liable for losses if you:

  • use your date of birth or telephone number as your PIN
  • told your card’s PIN to someone else, including a family member
  • keep a written record of the PIN "in proximity to" the card, including writing your PIN on the back of the card
  • didn't report your card as being lost or stolen in the amount of time specified in your card agreement
  • refuse to cooperate in an investigation of unauthorized use
  • made fraudulent deposits with your card
  • didn't take the necessary steps to protect your pin

Read your card agreement to make sure you know your responsibilities when using a debit card.

Unauthorized credit card transaction

When an unauthorized transaction is made with your credit card, your maximum 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 procedure in place.

Learn how to file a complaint with your financial institution.

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