Scam alert: Debit card swap is costing Canadians thousands of dollars

Point of Sale or debit/ credit machine. (Rene Johnston/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

If you’re worried about someone collecting your credit card information when you shop online, be aware that you’re also at risk when you pay for things in person.

Recently, scammers have been swapping out personal debit cards with a different one they have on hand when individuals are paying for an item or a service, resulting in fund being withdrawn or transferred out of the victim’s account.

A CityNews investigation found that a number of Pizza Pizza customers have allegedly been victims of this type of fraud. Their debit cards were swapped when they were making a payment during home deliveries, resulting in thousands of dollars being taken from their bank accounts.

“It’s scary because I mean it’s not only about losing your money, it’s your personal information,” Pizza Pizza customer Raihan Shirazi told CityNews.

In a statement to the new outlet, the company said “safety and security” of customers is “of the utmost importance” and they are currently investigating the incidents.

A more widespread problem

Although these recent reports are related to Pizza Pizza delivery employees, this debit card swapping scam has also allegedly been occurring to individuals who pay for taxi rides.

Beverley Cheng, a Toronto-based fitness expert who started the website Born To Sweat, was victim of this debit card fraud after taking a cab home in the city earlier this year.

She was leaving the Underground Garage club on May 26 around 3:00 a.m. when she decided to hop in what she believed was a cab to get home, although she later realized the car did not have any branding for a taxi company on the exterior. When she arrived at her condo building, she put her debit card in the payment terminal he handed her, put in her pin, the driver handed her card back and she left the car.

Cheng noticed that something was wrong when she woke up in the morning to multiple fraud alerts on her phone from TD Bank saying that thousands of dollars had been withdrawn from her account.

A TD Bank representative was not available for an interview with Yahoo Canada but according to its fraud alerts policy, the bank will send a text message if it detects any fraudulent activity. This also gives the card owner the opportunity to respond with a “Y” or “N” to identify if the transaction was in fact fraudulent.

Cheng called TD right away and the customer service person on the phone quickly realized what had happened when he asked her to read off the number on the debit card she had in her possession. The number she was reading wasn’t the card number associated with her account.

“So then I start freaking out that I had identity theft or something,” Cheng told Yahoo Canada. [He said] okay, calm down, were you in a cab recently and...I was in one last night, and he was like okay, what happened was he took your card and switched it for somebody else's, and that’s why you don’t have the right card.”

Cheng then called Toronto Police to report the incident. After filing the report, Cheng got a call from the TD fraud department saying the money would be back in her account shortly and that they received video footage of the driver taking the money out from an ATM nearby.

“He took out $2,400 right away,...drove to the nearest ATM because I could see what time that was at,” Cheng said “And then two hours later he tried to take out another...$2,320...and then that was blocked.”

Less than a week later the funds were returned to Cheng’s account but describes the overall process as “frustrating.” Despite the fraud, she still feels very secure about using her debit card, particularly since the situation was resolved quite quickly, but she does think that there needs to be more accountability due to the prevalence of these incidents.

“I feel like there needs to be way more accountability and [a] crack down on the cab companies,” Cheng said. “I had probably 12 people message me and say either it had happened to them or it had happened to them after they saw mine.”

What to do if you’re a victim of debit card fraud

According to the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, if you think you’ve become a victim of debit card fraud you should write down what occurred when you first notice the fraudulent activity, so you’re prepared to contact your financial institution and police. When you do call in the information, remember to make a note of who you spoke to and when you spoke to them. Make sure you keep any relevant documents or messages that can assist police in their investigation.

The government agency also recommends that victims put a fraud alert on their credit report, through Equifax and Transunion.

CIBC stresses the importance of protecting your pin number to help prevent this kind of fraud from happening. It also recommends that you never let your debit or credit card out of sight during a transaction.

“While INTERAC shared services are among the most secure in the world, debit card fraud can still occur,” the bank states in its documentation on debit and credit card fraud, shared with Yahoo Canada. “In fact, in many cases, CIBC is able to deactivate debit cards before they can be used fraudulently.”

RBC declined to comment or share information on the bank’s policy for this type of fraud incident.

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