From Yahoo! Canada Finance
by Andrew McKay, On Monday August 29, 2011, 1:23 pm EDT
It's a dangerous time for Canadian debit card users. More transactions than ever go through the plastic cards in our wallets, but full protection against fraud won't be rolled out for another four years.
Americans are beginning to catch on to what has become a truly Canadian staple: cards instead of cash. According to a recent survey, debit has surpassed cash, credit, and the age-old cheque as the preferred mode of payment.
It's not surprising that Americans are only starting to get the feel of when it is an isn't safe to use a debit card. For example, this story from our sister site tells users never to use debit cards at restaurants, or at wi-fi hotspots - habits Canadians have managed to navigate safely for a while now. Other examples, like rental deposits or credit transactions, aren't generally available to Canadians.
Still, according to the Canadian Antifraud Centre, Canadians lose $10 billion a year to mass market fraud. Chip technology has meant a drop to $119 million in plastics fraud in 2010. Chip technology is almost impossible to duplicate, and by December 2015, all point-of-sale transactions in Canada will use chip cards exclusively.
That's all well and good for 2015, but how can you protect yourself now? There are a few situations where it's wise for Canadians to put the bank card away.
Expensive items: Buying a TV or an appliance? A credit card offers better warranty protection, and better support in case of a dispute.
Future delivery: if you're paying now and getting it later, use credit. Again, the card's protection mechanisms will help you if something happens between purchase and delivery.
Off-brand machines: if the ATM or card swiper doesn't look familiar, skip it. You can always get money, or the product, somewhere else without risking your savings.
The Office of Consumer Affairs at Industry Canada offers a number of tips to keep you from being separated from your money.
Protect your debit card and PIN
-Never disclose your PIN to anyone — including family, friends, financial institution employees or law enforcement agencies.
-Keep your debit card in a safe place and never lend it to anyone. If you suspect that someone knows your PIN, change it immediately or contact your financial institution to cancel the card.
-If your card is lost, stolen, retained by an ATM, or you find that there has been an unauthorized transaction, notify your financial institution immediately.
-If you have made a purchase which does not appear on your monthly statement, change your PIN immediately and notify your financial institution as the information on your card and PIN may have been stolen at a bogus machine and you may be targeted for theft. Always check with your financial institution to determine if any additional action is required to protect your card.
When purchasing goods or services or when using an ATM
-Never let your debit card out of your sight; swipe the card yourself, if you can't — watch to make sure that it is not being double swiped.
-Watch out for "shoulder surfers" — people who read your PIN as you enter it.
-If anyone tries to distract you at a banking machine, complete what you are doing and retrieve your card before talking to them.
-After completing a transaction remember to take your card and the transaction record.
-Regularly check your statements or passbook updates and look for any discrepancies or suspicious transactions.
-Know your daily cash withdrawals and daily purchase limits. If they exceed your needs, you may want to ask your financial institution to reduce those limits.
-Check your authorized daily limits regularly. Financial institutions reserve the right to change withdrawal limits and thus you may not have noticed that your limits have increased.
-Check which accounts your debit card currently accesses, e.g. lines of credit, overdraft, savings accounts, and contact your financial institution if you want to change this arrangement.
-If you feel that a family member or dependent may be vulnerable to fraud, encourage them to talk with their financial institution about lowering their daily withdrawal limits.