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How to protect yourself against credit card fraud in Canada

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Updated: October 13, 2023

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Credit card fraud is on the rise in Canada. Our top tips on how to protect yourself against credit card fraud, and what to do if you've been scammed.

Credit card fraud – it happens in Canada more than you think.

Sure, credit cards make life easy and are a convenient and safe method of payment that’s accepted all over the world. But these days, credit card fraud is on the rise in Canada, and savvy consumers need to be in the know.

Even if you’ve never been a victim of credit card fraud, you’ve no doubt heard of it before and should get the 411 on how to prevent it. Because the last thing you need is the hassle of being scammed by fraudsters.

But what is “credit card fraud” exactly? Credit card fraud occurs when someone steals your credit card or your credit card information along with your PIN, and then uses it to make a purchase or withdraw money without your permission. The result can be devastating – not only in terms of having your accounts drained of your hard-earned moolah, but also because credit card fraud can negatively affect your credit rating and possibly lead to the even more serious crime of identity theft.

Here’s what you need to know about credit card fraud in Canada and how you can better protect yourself against it.

The best Canadian credit cards for fraud protection'

The good news is that every bank and credit card in Canada has fraud protection, though some make it a little easier to keep track of than others.

One of the leading banks right now in terms of innovative credit card fraud protection is TD, which now offers fraud alerts for both debit cards and credit cards.

“TD Fraud Alerts are texts that notify a customer if TD detects suspicious activity made with their TD Access Card on their personal banking accounts, or possible suspicious transactions made with their TD Credit Card,” says Julie Bellissimo of TD Bank Group. “Customers can reply to the alert with a simple ‘Y’ or ‘N’ to confirm whether they recognize the transaction and TD will unblock or block their TD Access Card or TD Credit Card accordingly, based on the response.”

“TD will never ask a customer to reply to a Fraud Alert text with any personal information or ask customers to click on any links in their reply.”

Earn 10% cash back on all purchases for the first 3 months† up to a total spend of $2,000. After your first $2,000 in purchases, gas purchases, grocery purchases and pre-authorized payments will continue to earn 6% up to a total spend of $3,500 for the first 3 months. Plus, first year no annual fee for the primary and additional cardholders†. Conditions apply. Must apply online by Sept. 5, 2023.

Impressed? With the TD Cash Back Visa Infinite* Card, in addition to fraud alerts, for a limited time, you’ll earn an amazing welcome bonus.

Earn 10% in cash back dollars on all purchases for the first 3 months† up to a total spend of $2,000. Plus, no annual fee for the first year†. Conditions apply. Must apply online by Sept. 5, 2023.

  • After your first $2,000 in purchases, gas purchases, grocery purchases and pre-authorized payments will continue to earn 6% up to a total spend of $3,500 for the first 3 months.
  • Get an annual fee rebate for the first year†.

To receive the first-year annual fee rebate, you must activate your card and make your first purchase on the account within the first 3 months after account opening and you must add your additional cardholders by Sept. 6, 2023.

The Details:

  • Annual fee: $139 (Annual fee rebate for first year)†
  • Minimum income eligibility: $60,000 personal or $100,000 household annual income.
  • Credit score required: Good;Excellent
  • Interest on purchases: 20.99% | Interest on cash advances: 22.99%
Learn more about the TD Cash Back Visa Infinite Card

†Terms and conditions apply.

This offer is not available for residents of Quebec. For Quebec residents, please click here.

Apply for a Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card by July 5, 2023. If you're approved, you’ll earn an extra 10% back on up to $1,000 in everyday purchases made within your first 2 months.*

Another great option is the Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card. With Tangerine, cardholders will receive Orange Alert emails to keep them up to date on what’s going on with their bank account; an easy way to spot any unusual activity.

The details:

Annual fee: $0

Minimum income eligibility: $12,000

Credit score required: Fair;good

Interest on purchases: 19.95% | Interest on cash advances: 19.95%

Learn more about the Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card

*Terms and conditions apply

Get 35,000 welcome Avion points on approval* - Enough to fly anywhere in Canada & the U.S (Alaska and Hawaii require more points)!

Finally, RBC credit cards, such as the RBC Avion Visa Infinite card, are also worth your consideration. RBC has recently given its clients the power to temporarily lock their credit cards through a handy RBC app if they notice their card is MIA.

The details:

Annual fee: $120

Minimum income eligibility: Personal: $60,000 or household: $100,000

Credit score required: Good;Excellent

Interest on purchases: 20.99% | Interest on cash advances: 22.99% (21.99% if you reside in Quebec)

Learn more about the RBC Avion Visa Institute

Refer to RBC Page for up to date offer terms and conditions.

Common credit card scams in Canada

Unfortunately, there is no shortage of credit card scams in Canada, and new ones constantly popping up like a deranged whack-a-mole game. While some are obvious scams (“Hi, it’s Bill Gates from Microsoft calling…”), others are more convincing and can easily suck you into their scam. These are a few of the more recent credit card fraud scams in Canada to keep on your radar:

  • Phone call from the “fraud department”: Scammers call you, pretending to be from the security and fraud department of your credit card company. They will flag a fake purchase and ask for all of your card details.
  • Card skimmers: plastic machines often attached to card readers at ATMs or gas pumps. They have the same scanner as the actual card readers and can be hard to identify.
  • Skimming App: As well as the skimming machine, there is now a skimming app that can read your credit card data. To get it to function, the NFC antennae in your smartphone needs to be very close to the card (about 10cm); however, it can still read the numbers through purses or pockets.

On top of these annoying scams, remember to be alert for the usual suspects: fake phone calls from collectors at the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) or a supposed family member in need, donation requests from faux charities, and telemarketing scams.

How to protect yourself from credit card fraud

  • Never lend your card or disclose your PIN to anyone else (obviously!).
  • Always insert your card first, instead of swiping it when making a purchase. This will protect you from having your card skimmed and, if the store terminal isn’t chip-capable, it will prompt you to swipe.
  • Make sure that you don’t use an obvious PIN that someone can guess. This means no birthdays, addresses, telephone numbers, or other favourite digits that someone could guess.
  • Memorize your PIN: don’t write it down and stick it in your wallet. That’s like leaving a backdoor open for a robber.
  • Hide your PIN: use your shoulder or your hand to shield your PIN when entering it into the keypad.
  • Always know where your cards are and be mindful when using them. Watch for any double swipes and don’t let anyone distract you at an ATM. You should also check over the statements when they come in and keep tabs on your card activity online or through your banking app.
  • Shred any bank statements or personal documents before throwing them out. Leaving them open in a recycling bin is just an invitation to disaster.
  • Be wary about giving out your digits over the phone: Unless you’ve made the call, don’t give out your credit card number or any other sensitive information over the phone. The person may sound convincing and claim to be from a legit company, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Get their info and tell them you’ll call them back. Then check it against what’s listed on the company’s official website.
  • Use credit cards with enhanced security features: Oh the good old days of swiping your card and signing a receipt! Nowadays, chip and PIN technology offer a more secure way of protecting your credit card from fraud. If you don’t have this on your current credit card, make a quick call and get a replacement.

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

Despite all your best efforts, it can happen. If you suspect that you are a victim of credit card fraud, there are a series of steps to take to protect yourself, your savings, and even your credit score. Whatever you do, don’t dawdle – get on the situation ASAP.

Step 1: Report it to your bank or credit card company

Whether your card has been compromised, stolen, or lost, it needs to be reported to either your bank or the credit card company ASAP. They will be able to then put a block on the card so that it can no longer be used.

Step 2: Get in touch with your credit bureau

Credit card fraud is not only damaging in terms of losing money, but it can also have a negative impact on your credit score. If you are a victim of credit card fraud you will need to contact both Equifax Canada and TransUnion.

Please note that there is a $5 processing fee and you will be asked for a credit card number. Since yours is likely out of commission, in this case, ask a family member or a friend if you can use theirs.

Toll-free number for Equifax: 1-800-465-7166

Toll-free number for TransUnion: 1-877-525-3823

Step 3: Contact the local police

Chances are that your stolen credit card won’t be a top priority for the police, but making a statement is still required – and important! Firstly, it serves as an official record of identity theft, which will be very beneficial if the fraudster goes further than making a bunch of purchases on your credit card. Secondly, it can be helpful to the police in terms of identifying fraud schemes and protecting the public.

Step 4: Inform the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre

The Canadian Fraud Centre is partially managed by the RCMP and should be notified of any fraudulent activity. You can contact them at 1-888-495-8501.

Final words to the wise

Credit card fraud is more common than we would like, and it can be super annoying to deal with if it happens to you. Following a few simple tips and tricks from the experts, you’ll be well on your way to better protecting yourself from fraudsters.

The best credit cards by category:

Hannah Logan Freelance Contributor

Hannah Logan is a Canadian freelancer writer and blogger who specializes in personal finance and travel. You can follow her adventures on her travel blog or find her on Instagram @hannahlogan21.


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