Debit card fraud—what you need to know

5 min read

Your debit card is a fantastic, cashless way to spend money—it allows you to make purchases in seconds or withdraw cash from an ATM. However, just like credit cards, debit cards can be susceptible to fraud. Debit card fraud comes in many forms, and it’s not always easy to spot. This guide will let you know what warning signs to look out for, and how you can protect your money with some simple habits.

What is debit card fraud?

Debit card fraud occurs when someone gets access to your debit card—or your card details—and uses it to make unauthorized purchases or withdrawals. It's a serious crime, and anyone with a debit card should know the warning signs and how to protect themselves from debit card fraud. 

How can someone use your debit card without the physical card?

You might think that with your card safely in your wallet, there’s no way you can fall victim to debit card fraud—but unfortunately, this isn’t the case. In fact, by not physically stealing your card, criminals hope that you won’t notice that anything is amiss. Fraudsters can get ahold of your card details in a few different ways—one of them being through an ATM card skimming device

Nefarious parties can also gain access to old bank statements or debit cards, or direct you to make a payment on a fraudulent website that collects your details. It might sound far-fetched, but fraudsters are becoming more and more sophisticated. So if you ever check your balance and find yourself thinking: “It looks like someone used my debit card, but I have it,” you may have been a victim of debit card fraud. 

How to detect debit card fraud

If you ever see suspicious, unexplained activity on your bank account, you should check for fraudulent charges on your debit card. You might spot purchases on your bank statement that you haven’t made, see withdrawals at locations you haven’t visited, or suddenly find that your scheduled payments have bounced. The best way to stay vigilant is to check your bank account balance and transactions daily using a mobile or online banking app.

10 tips for protecting yourself from debit card fraud

To help you keep your account safe from debit card fraud, we’ve put together a list of steps you can take. Read on to learn how to keep your debit card details extra secure. 

1. Check your transactions and account balance regularly

By staying on top of your cashflow, you’ll be able to quickly spot and report any suspicious activity. This will reduce the chance and/or impact of debit card fraud.

2. Go paperless if you can, or keep your statements in a safe place

Paperless bank statements are ideal, as they prevent your details from falling into the wrong hands. But if you prefer to have hard copies, make sure you store them safely and shred any you don’t need.

3. Don’t store your PIN anywhere or share it

It may be tempting to keep a reminder of your PIN on your phone or written down somewhere, but this increases the risk of fraudsters getting access to your bank account. Try to memorize your PIN number, then shred any record of it.

4. Look out for phishing scams

Don’t respond to suspicious emails, texts, or phone calls—and never share your debit card details online or with someone you don’t know.

5. Destroy old debit cards properly

Before throwing old debit cards away in the trash, use a shredder or cut them up as small as you can.

6. Bank with a credible institution

Not all banks are alike, so it's a good idea to check what security and money protection measures are in place at your bank. N26 has a full European banking license, which means that your money is protected up to €100,000 by the German Deposit Protection Scheme. 

7. Set up banking alerts if your bank allows

Most banking apps will let you set up withdrawal alerts, which can help you spot any unusual activity on your debit card. All N26 bank accounts come with instant push notifications, so you can know about any payments or withdrawals in real time.

8. Use bank ATMs

Bank ATMs are often more secure than ATMs at stores, restaurants, casinos, or on the street. Sticking to bank ATMs will minimize your risk of an ATM skimmer accessing your debit card details.

9. Use fingerprint scanning and face recognition to log in online

This helps keep your phone and banking app secure, so nobody can log in but you. It’s also super important to use a strong, safe password.

10. Enable location tracking on your banking app

With location tracking, your bank can spot irregular transactions that may not have been made by you.

At N26, we know that security is just as important as convenience. That’s why we’re always improving our security measures to stay one step ahead of criminal activity. And if you tell us that you’re concerned about potential debit card fraud on your bank account, we’ll investigate it straight away. N26 is governed by the same regulations as any other traditional bank, so you’re always in good hands.

Security at N26

At N26, we take your security very seriously. Your N26 bank account features real-time push-notifications for any account activity, including purchases, direct debits, or withdrawals—so you always know what’s happening with your money. If anything seems out of the ordinary, you can lock your card instantly right from your N26 app. You can then report your card as stolen and order a new debit card straight away.

f you think your account has been compromised and need to report it, get in touch with our dedicated Customer Support team immediately—we’ll be happy to help. 

FAQs

What is debit card fraud?

Debit card fraud is when somebody steals your debit card details to make unauthorized payments or withdrawals from your bank account. There are several ways a fraudster might do this, but whatever approach they take, it’s illegal. Financial institutions—including banks—work hard to minimize the risk to customers, but with fraudsters becoming more and more sophisticated, even the most secure bank account can be susceptible to debit card fraud.

How can I prevent debit card fraud?

There are many steps you can take to help prevent debit card fraud and protect your finances, as outlined in our top tips. Make sure you destroy old cards and statements responsibly, never write down or share your PIN (even on your phone), and keep a close eye on your transactions so you can spot anything suspicious. It’s also a good idea to read up on phishing scams. That way, you won’t fall for the more convincing cons out there.

What should I do if I think I’ve experienced debit card fraud?

If you see a payment that wasn’t made by you, the most important thing to do is act fast. If you’re able to lock or freeze your card on your own, do so quickly, as this will minimize the financial impact. Next, contact your bank as soon as possible—they should be able to help you resolve the issue. If they don’t, you may need to contact the relevant agency in your country.

How do I report debit card fraud?

Most banks will have a phone number you can call, or if you bank online, you may be able to message your bank through your app. At N26, we have a dedicated Customer Support team on hand to deal with any security questions you may have. Customers should report debit card fraud to Customer Support as soon as possible, who will act quickly to protect your money.

How do banks investigate debit card fraud?

When you report debit card fraud, your bank has a set timeframe in which they must investigate it. If they find that there has been fraudulent activity on your card, the bank also has a set timeframe during which they can correct it and let you know what course of action they have taken. The exact timeframe may vary, so ask your bank what their process is when you report the debit card fraud.

By N26

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