How to Protect Yourself Against Credit Card Fraud

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There are many reasons why a preferred form of payment is a credit card. Fast, convenient and easier to carry than cash, credit cards allow you to build credit as you make daily purchases and often offer rewards and benefits, such as points, cashback and damage or loss insurance. Most credit cards provide fraud protection and coverage for defective, stolen or undelivered items. It’s easy to see why 93% of Canadians over 18 have a credit card. As of 2021, a staggering 76.2 million Visa and MasterCard cards were in circulation in Canada.

More Canadians are also shopping with credit cards, in part due to the rise in online shopping. According to a survey by CPA Canada, nearly three-quarters of Canadians buy from web-based retailers, and the overwhelming majority of these transactions involve credit cards.

Unfortunately, with the rise in e-commerce also comes an increased opportunity for fraud and scams to occur. More than 1 in 5 Canadians report being a victim of financial fraud or a scam within the last 2 years, with the most common being the unauthorized use of a credit card or bank account number. In 2021 alone, Canadians lost $269 million to various forms of fraud, including credit card theft and fraud. That number is projected to rise over the coming years.

The good news is that many Canadians are aware of the potential risks and are actively taking steps to keep themselves safe. From a 2021 survey, 62 percent of respondents said they were doing more than they were five years ago to prevent themselves from being scammed.

Whether you are shopping online or in a store, it’s important to be aware of the risks of credit card fraud, what your liability is and what steps you can take to protect yourself.

What is Credit Card Fraud?

There are several different ways that credit card fraud can occur. Someone could steal your credit card or obtain your credit card number and expiry date to make an unauthorized purchase. If someone gains access to your PIN and credit card, they can use that information to withdraw funds from an automated teller machine (ATM).

A more technologically sophisticated form of card theft occurs when someone tampers with a payment terminal or ATM to obtain your card information. This type of theft is known as “skimming,” and it involves a criminal using a card reader to harvest credit card information and personal identification numbers (PIN). Thieves then replicate the card and withdraw money. 

What is my liability?

One of the benefits of using a credit card is that the providers offer robust consumer protection in the event of fraud. For CUA Collabria credit card holders, the maximum liability for unauthorized use is $50. However, this benefit requires that you take reasonable care in protecting yourself.

You'll need to keep your PIN secure; avoiding sharing it with others, writing it down or using a number combination that can be easily guessed, such as your birthdate or phone number. You will also need to contact your financial institution as soon as you become aware of a lost card or notice any fraudulent transactions.

How you can protect yourself:

  1. Avoid swiping your card: if you can help it, avoid using payment terminals that require you to swipe your card instead of inserting the chip. These terminals could be used to skim your card and steal your information. If you have no other option, take a moment to inspect the terminal closely. If it looks like it's been tampered with, don't swipe.
  2. Report a lost or stolen card as soon as you notice it’s gone. If your card has been stolen, it is vital to cancel the card immediately. Your credit card issuer will issue you a new card.
  3. Be sure to check your transactions regularly using online banking and your monthly bank statement. If there are any unfamiliar or unauthorized charges, report them to your financial institution immediately.
  4. Keep your personal information private: don’t share your PIN or passwords, even with loved ones. Sharing this information may impact the liability protection you have with your card provider.
  5. Choose a PIN that can’t be easily guessed. For example, don’t use your birthday, address, or phone number, as this information can often be found online.
  6. Never leave your credit card unattended, including in your car or at your place of work.
  7. If you shop online or over the phone, make sure that you are purchasing from a reputable business before proceeding. If you are purchasing from a website, look for a padlock icon before the URL in your web browser. If it is locked, the website is secure.
  8. When travelling, always keep your credit card in a safe location.
  9. If you receive a call or email from someone claiming to be your credit card issuer, do not give out your card information. Financial institutions will never request this information over the phone or by email.
  10. Sign up for fraud alerts. Many credit card issuers will notify you if they notice suspicious activity.

Notice Unauthorized Activity?

If you notice any unauthorized activity on your CUA credit card or have a lost or stolen card, please contact your card provider immediately.

Report a lost/stolen Collabria Visa or Mastercard (Canada and U.S.): 1-855-341-4643

Report a lost/stolen Collabria Visa or Mastercard (International Collect): 1-647-252-9564

Report a lost/stolen CUA Member/Debit card: 1-888-277-1043 Sign up for fraud alerts here.

Published Feb. 11, 2022

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