Are debit cards protected from fraud?

If your debit card is lost or stolen, it’s important to act fast. If there are unauthorized charges on your debit card, federal law may limit how much you’re liable for. But whether you’re charged for any unauthorized charges—and how much—could depend on your financial institution and when you report your card missing.

Read on to learn more about how fraud liability works with a debit card and what you need to know about reporting unknown charges.

Key takeaways

  • Under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act, there may be a maximum amount of fraud that debit cardholders can be liable for.
  • It’s important to report fraudulent debit card transactions immediately.
  • You’re not responsible for unauthorized charges if your Capital One card is promptly reported as stolen or compromised.

Protect your account online

Keep tabs on your account anytime, anywhere with the Capital One Mobile app.

Learn more

Are you liable for unauthorized debit card charges?

If your debit card is lost or stolen, your level of liability depends on your financial institution’s policy and how quickly you report the missing card.

The Electronic Fund Transfer Act can protect you against errors during electronic transfers, including through a set maximum liability for fraudulent charges on your account.

But when you report your debit card as lost or stolen is important. That’s because the amount that you may be liable for increases with time.

Some debit cards have $0 liability for unauthorized charges, which means if your card is lost or stolen, you will not be responsible for charges you did not authorize. But you should still report a lost or stolen card as soon as you can.

How to report debit card fraud

As soon as you notice that your debit card is lost or stolen—or a fraudulent charge has been made—don’t wait to take action. It’s important to contact your financial institution immediately to report potential fraud.

You can typically find contact information for the bank or credit union that issued your debit card on your statement, in your online account, in your app or even on your card.

After contacting your financial institution, you may want or need to follow up on the status of your claim.

How to prevent your debit card from being stolen

There are actions you can take to prevent your card from being stolen and to avoid potentially being liable for fraudulent charges. Here are a few:

Keep your account information private

Never give your account information out to anyone—even those you feel that you can trust. That includes your debit card number or bank account information. You should also avoid providing your card number to anyone over the phone, especially in an area where others may be able to overhear. And it’s a good idea to keep your information secure and not accessible to others.

Use multifactor authentication

If it’s available, setting up multifactor authentication is an important step you can take to protect your account. This can provide an extra layer of security to prevent unauthorized users from accessing your account. This may come in the form of a fingerprint, face recognition software or a unique temporary passcode that’s sent to a trusted device.

Monitor your account regularly

With debit cards, transactions are generally posted to your account immediately because they’re using money from your account, not credit. This can make it easier to quickly notice when something doesn’t look right. If it’s available, you may want to set up account activity alerts to help identify unauthorized transactions or keep an eye on your spending.

FAQs about debit card fraud liability

There can be a lot to process if you experience debit card fraud. To help you out, here are answers to a couple of common questions.

How can someone use my debit card without physically having it?

It may seem odd that someone could use your debit card when it’s still in your possession, but unfortunately, it could happen. Scammers can obtain your information through a process known as skimming. When this happens, your data is captured to record your PIN, and then a fake debit card is created to make purchases.

Gas stations are a common place where skimming might occur. You can learn more from the Federal Trade Commission about how to avoid skimmers at the pump.

How do banks investigate unauthorized transactions?

When you file a claim, the bank will start an investigation and resolve the claim within a specific amount of time. The timing can vary based on certain factors, such as whether the account is new and if transactions were made in another country. 

Debit card unauthorized charge protection in a nutshell

Falling victim to debit card fraud is never something you want to deal with. If it happens to you, it’s important to understand your liability and to contact your financial institution right away.

Related Content