Debit cards are open to a variety of abuses and how you respond depends on the specific abuse that has occurred. Your first concern must always to protect your card and if things go wrong, cancel the card before reporting it to the police. Once you’ve reported unauthorised debit card to the police, it is typically not your call as to whether you press charges as the police and Crown Prosecution Service have a duty to investigate and prosecute all crimes.
Debit card theft
If someone takes your debit card and uses it without permission, it is theft. You would report this theft in the same way you’d report the theft of a bicycle or a bag, by calling the police, either on 999 or by dialling the non-emergency 101 helpline. Naturally, whether you file charges depends entirely on the circumstances. If the card was used by a family member, you may wish to resolve the matter privately.
Unauthorised debit card transaction
If someone charges your card without your permission, even if you’ve previously used the card to buy goods or services from that person, this is credit card fraud and you should report it to your card provider. Before you do, check the terms and conditions of any arrangements you have with the person or company that made the charge. In some cases, although frustrating and misleading, the small print hides an agreement to for your card to be debited, if you fail to cancel after a free trial. This is legal, but you can sometimes claim your money back. You have 13 months from the date of the transaction to report the fraud. It typically becomes a police matter only if you don’t get a refund from your bank. On some occasions, the card provider will report the unauthorised transaction to the police.
Debit card cloning
If you notice suspicious debit transactions, such as payments or withdrawals in Scotland when you’re in Wales, your card may have been skimmed and cloned. You should report it to your card provider so they can cancel the card, then report it to the police using the non-emergency number. Skimming of cards to clone them is a growing problem and the police are keen to gather as much intelligence as possible in order to gain fraud convictions against the perpetrators.
Protecting your debit card
Never keep your PIN with your card and never give out your pin number. Check your balance regularly and look out for unfamiliar or suspicious transactions. Never enter your card details into websites that you don’t trust. Consider switching to a debit card that offers the chargeback facility for extra protection against fraud if your card doesn’t offer it.
- Crimestoppers: Types of card fraud
- Gov.UK: Report a crime or anti-social behaviour
- Crown Prosecution Service: The decision to prosecute
- Financial Services Authority: Bank accounts; know your rights
- The Guardian: Now banks are trying to pin the blame for card fraud on you
- Equifax: Terms and conditions of use
- ITV: Cashpoint warning
- Money Saving Expert: Visa, Mastercard & Amex chargeback