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What to do about a fraudulent transaction on your debit card

3 steps to take if you notice a fraudulent transaction made from your bank account.

If there is a fraudulent transaction on your debit card, you are generally entitled to a refund. This is a case of money stolen from your bank account, and banks have clear policies and guidelines to follow to return that money to you.

However, if you're wondering "can I get money back from an incorrect bank transfer?", then the situation becomes a little more complicated.

Here's the difference between the 2, and the steps involved in trying to recover your money.

What to do if you spot a fraudulent transaction

Most debit cards come with a zero liability guarantee, which protects consumers against fraudulent transactions. Every card provider has a different criteria outlining what you can claim.

According to the Financial Rights Legal Centre, as a general rule, you are not liable for unauthorised transactions. Putting in a claim with your bank does not guarantee a refund, and a refund may be voided if you contributed towards the loss, for instance by sharing your Internet banking password with someone who then made an unauthorised transaction.

Regardless of your circumstances, these are the steps to take if you have had money taken from your bank account without permission:

Picture not described Step 1. Contact your bank to block the transaction

If you spot a fraudulent transaction that has been made from your bank account, contact your bank immediately. It may be able to prevent further withdrawals. Note that if any disputed transactions are still in "pending" mode, they will generally need to be fully processed before your bank can initiate a dispute on your behalf. This can take 3 to 5 business days to process a transaction, or even up to 10 business days.

Contract iconStep 2. Make a claim

If the transaction has been processed, your bank will be able to tell you the next steps to make a claim and try to get the money back, based on its own specific policies and procedures.

Picture not described Step 3. Freeze your debit card

If someone has unauthorised access to your card or your card details, you need to prevent them from making any further transactions. Most banks will require you to cancel your card to protect your account from further fraudulent activity. Your bank will send you a new card, but this may impact any direct debits and auto-payments. You can do this in your mobile banking app, via Internet banking or by calling your bank.

Will the bank contact you about a fraudulent transaction?

Debit card providers often monitor transactions conducted on debit cards, using algorithms to help them establish a spending pattern for your particular card.

This allows them to identify transactions that seem out of place (for instance, transactions that take place in another city or country).

They can often prevent fraudulent transactions by calling you to confirm the payment. If you have no knowledge of the transaction, it will not be approved and any money removed from your account will be refunded.

While this is comforting, as the account holder, the onus is on you to monitor your account and ensure your credentials have not been compromised.

Finder survey: How many people have experienced fraud on their debit card or credit card?

ResponseFemaleMale
No - I have never experienced card fraud59.31%57.33%
Yes - on my credit card24.48%27.26%
Yes - on my debit card12.76%11.09%
Yes - on both a debit card and a credit card3.45%4.32%
Source: Finder survey by Pure Profile of 1113 Australians, December 2023

Fraudulent transaction vs dispute with a seller

A transaction that is made on your debit or credit card without your authorisation is a fraudulent transaction. This may include cards that are lost or stolen, fake, not received, or fraudulent as decided by a card company.

This is not the same thing as a dispute with a seller.

A fraudulent transaction is any transaction where the card was not used for its original intention, whereas a dispute refers to any transaction where the seller and the buyer disagree on an issue, such as the item not being the one the buyer purchased, or the price being different to what was agreed originally.

In the case of a dispute, your bank may still be able to assist you with getting your money back if:

  • You’ve been charged multiple times for the same purchase.
  • You were charged a higher amount than advertised for your purchase.
  • You didn’t receive the goods and/or services you paid for.
  • The items/services you paid for weren’t as described or were defective.

How can you prove if you have been scammed with a fraudulent transaction?

Before you contact the bank, you need to identify whether this is genuinely an unauthorised or fraudulent transaction or not. Consider the following:

  • Did a family member or any other cardholder have authorised access to the account?
  • Is the transaction related to a merchant you genuinely shopped with, trading under a different name?
  • Was the transaction made in a foreign currency and converted into Australian dollars?
  • Does the transaction relate to a regular membership or subscription you forgot about?

If you run through this process and you're still certain you've been scammed, contact your bank immediately to alert them to the issue and cancel your account.

Unfortunately, if you've given out your personal details to a scammer and this has contributed to your financial loss, the ACCC advises you're unlikely to get your money back. However, you can limit the damage and protect yourself from further loss by recovering your stolen identity, reporting your situation to ScamWatch and changing your online passwords.

Can you get your money back from an incorrect bank transfer?

This is different to an unauthorised transaction, as you were responsible for the mistaken transfer. The Financial Ombudsman Service Australia explains that if you do enter the wrong account or BSB number, the payment will be made to the wrong account or unintended recipient, which is known as a "mistaken Internet payment".

If you've made a mistaken Internet payment, you may be able to get your money back from an incorrect bank transfer, depending on the timing.

It's crucial that you contact your bank or credit union immediately. They will contact the unintended recipient's bank to try and get the money back.

If you report the mistake:

  • Within 10 business days. The funds will be returned to you.
  • Between 10 business days and 7 months. The recipient's bank has the ability to freeze the funds. The recipient then has 10 business days to prove they are entitled to the funds. If they can not do this, the funds will be returned to you.
  • After 7 months. The funds will only be returned if the other person agrees.

If the money is still in the other person's bank account and you can prove the money was sent as a genuine mistake (which you can often prove if the account name and number don't match), the process for recovering will commence. This process can take weeks or even months. Even if you report the mistake immediately and you have a right to have the funds returned to you, the unintended recipient may not return the money immediately.

Which number do I call if I've had my debit card lost, stolen, or I suspect a fraudulent transaction?

Financial institutionIn AustraliaFrom overseas
AMP1800 033 844+61 2 8048 8249
ANZN/A+61 3 8699 6955
Arab Bank Australia1800 139 241+61 2 9959 7530
Australian Military Bank (ADCU)1300 13 23 28+61 2 9240 4122
Auswide Bank1800 072 111+61 2 9959 7884
Bank Australia (bankmecu)132 888+61 3 9854 4666
Bank of Melbourne1800 772 266+61 3 9982 4186
Bank of Queensland (BOQ)1800 077 024+61 7 3336 2222
Bank of Sydney1300 888 730+61 2 8262 9102
BankSA1800 028 208+61 2 9553 5233
BankVic13 63 73+613 9268 9373
Bankwest13 17 19+61 8 9449 2840
bcu1800 621 199+61 2 9959 7686
Bendigo Bank1800 035 383+61 3 5485 7872
Beyond Bank1800 648 027+61 2 8299 9101
Big Sky1300 654 321+1 303 967 1090
Border Bank131 728+61 2 9287 0888
Cairns Penny Savings & Loans Savings(07) 4031 4460N/A
Catalyst Money1800 648 027+61 2 8299 9101
Citi13 24 84+61 2 8225 0615
Coles1800 005 809+61 3 9420 4818
Commonwealth Bank13 2221+61 2 9999 3283
Community First1300 13 22 77+61 2 9959 7480
CUA133 282, 1800 648 027(Visa) or 1300 135 538 (Mastercard)1 410 581 99949 (Visa) or 1 636 722 7111 (Mastercard)
Defence Bank1800 648 027+1 443 641 2004
DelphiBank1 800 648 027+61 2 8299 9101
Easy Street1800 648 027 or (02) 9959 7480+61 2 9959 7480
ECU Australia1800 383 791 or 1800 621 199+1 303 967 1090
Endeavour Mutual Bank1300 13 14 20+61 2 9245 1040
FCCS1800 648 027N/A
First Choice Credit Union1800 648 027+61 2 8299 9101
First Option Credit Union1300 855 675+61 3 9869 8700
firstmac13 12 20+61 7 3017 8888
G&C Mutual1300 364 400+61 2 9307 5400
Gateway Bank Ltd1800 139 241+61 2 9307 4200
Greater Building Society1300 651 4001-800-450-346
Heritage Bank1800 076 037+61 7 4694 9139
Horizon Credit Union1300 366 565+61 2 8299 9101
HSBC Australia1300 308 008+61 2 9005 8187
Hunter United1800 621 199+61 2 4941 3888
Illawarra Credit Union1800 648 027+61 2 8299 9101
IMB133 462+61 2 4298 0111
ING133 464+61 2 9028 4077
Intech Credit Union1800 648 027+61 2 8299 9101
Macquarie Bank1300 150 300+61 2 8232 1684
Maleny Credit Union1800 621 199 or (02) 9959 7686+61 2 9959 7686
ME Bank13 15 63+61 3 9708 4001
My Credit Union8202 7777+61 2 8299 9101
MyState1800 648 027+61 2 8299 9101
NAB1800 033 103+61 3 8641 9083
Newcastle Permanent13 19 87+61 2 4907 6501
P&N Bank (Police & Nurses)13 25 77+61 8 9219 7511
People’s Choice CU13 11 82+61 2 8299 9101
Policebank131 728+61 2 9287 0888
Qantas Credit Union1300 747 747+61 2 9582 3200
QPCU13 77 28+1 303 967 1090
QT Mutual Bank13 29 30+61 7 3842 6222
Queenslanders Credit Union1800 753 377+61 7 3218 7200
RaboBank1800 723 566+61 2 81154265
Rabobank1800 445 445+61 2 8115 2558
RAMS13 7267N/A
Rural Bank1800 035 383+61 8 7109 9207
SCU13 61 91N/A
Service One Alliance Bank1300 361 761+61 2 8299 9101
St.George1800 028 208+61 2 9553 5333
Suncorp Bank1800 775 020+61 7 3362 1712
Teachers Mutual Bank13 12 21+61 2 9735 9331
Ubank1300 822 630+61 2 8756 0855
Bank First1300 654 822+61 3 9834 8560
Virgin Money13 37 39+61 2 8288 2222
Westpac1300 651 089+61 2 9374 7237
Your Credit Union1800 621 199N/A

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What are zero liability guarantees?

A zero liability guarantee is a guarantee offered by card issuers where a fraudulent or unauthorised transaction will not be completed. The money will not be removed from your bank account. You will need to have adequate proof in the form of correspondence to prove that the transaction was indeed unauthorised.

To benefit from a zero liability guarantee, you must file the claim as soon as possible, because some debit cards have a time limit on their zero liability guarantee. Also, not all debit cards offer this option.

Written by

Sarah Megginson

As an authority on all things personal finance, Sarah Megginson is passionate about helping you save money and make money. She is an editor and money expert with 20 years’ experience and an extensive background in property and finance journalism. Sarah holds ASIC RG146-compliant Tier 1 Generic Knowledge certification, and she's a regular media commentator, appearing weekly on TV (Sunrise, Channel 7 news, Nine news), radio (KIIS FM, Triple M, 3AW, 2GB, 6PR) and in digital and print media. See full profile

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14 Responses

    Default Gravatar
    GrantJuly 31, 2023

    My Daughter has had money taken from her account through purchases in a town approximately 2000 km away. Can confirm that she was at work at the time of transactions. Bank is saying she confirmed the purchases by way of confirmation code. The last time she had to confirm any code was approx 1 month prior to the said transactions. Whilst she was on the phone to the bank regarding the said transactions another $3000 dollars was being transferred from the same account to her other account, which was stopped at the time, by the bank. The bank is offering 25% of the loss of money and still saying she confirmed the transaction, even though they were aware of what was happening as she was reporting it to them at the same time it was occurring . Who do I see to take this further?

      AvatarFinder
      AlisonAugust 1, 2023Finder

      Hi Grant, I’m sorry to hear your daughter has experienced this, however you need to continue to work with the bank directly to resolve this.
      All the best,
      Alison

    Default Gravatar
    RosemaryOctober 24, 2021

    My Google account has been hacked into an it’s linked up to my online banking an my myGov iv had money taken out of my account how do I report an be refunded of stolen money

      AvatarFinder
      AlisonOctober 26, 2021Finder

      Hi Rosemary,

      We’re sorry to hear that your account has been hacked. The very first you should do is contact your bank. You can file a claim If the transaction has already gone through and your bank will advise the next steps how to get the money back. Make sure to read the Product Disclosure Statements and Terms & Conditions to learn more about their claims and refund process. You can also check this page on how to recover your hacked Google account.

      Thanks,
      Alison

    Default Gravatar
    KateNovember 14, 2018

    My son took my credit card and purchased something without my consent. My credit card provider is saying I have to go to the police if I want to get my money back but I do want my 12-year-old son in trouble with the police. Is this normal procedure with the banks?

      AvatarFinder
      JhezelynNovember 15, 2018Finder

      Hello Kate,

      Thank you for your comment.

      Since you’re filing for a fraudulent transaction, a police report is required by some banks for investigation and yes, that’s a normal procedure.

      If you also want a refund, you may contact the merchant your son had purchased the item from and return it to them and check if they can refund you the payment.

      Should you wish to have real-time answers to your questions, try our chat box on the lower right corner of our page.

      Regards,
      Jhezelyn

    Default Gravatar
    MattinthehatApril 9, 2017

    Hi,

    We have had a number of fraudulent transactions happen to us.
    Your statement about the money being stopped is incorrect as the transaction must be completed before you can lodge a claim.

    My Question is there is also a number of currency conversion fees attached to the transaction. Am I able to claim these also?

      AvatarFinder
      HaroldApril 14, 2017Finder

      Hi Mattinthehat,

      Thank you for your inquiry.

      Our company finder.com.au is a financial comparison website and general information service designed to help consumers to make a better decision. Please note we do not represent any company we feature on our pages.

      Claim does not guarantee a refund, this could be your best bet when other options have failed. Here are the steps to make the refund process as easy as possible. You may want to read the step by step procedure for your guidance.

      I hope this information has helped.

      Cheers,
      Harold

    Default Gravatar
    SofiaJuly 5, 2016

    If money transaction was made through a credit card ( by my computer) to a company that proved to be a scam, after they promised me great short term profits that never appeared, can I dispute and reverse the money transaction after 6 months?
    Thank you

      AvatarFinder
      ClarizzaJuly 5, 2016Finder

      Hi Sofia,

      Thanks for your question.

      It should be noted, we are a comparison website and as such, can provide general advice only.

      It will depend on the terms and conditions of your credit card, however fraudulent transactions should be reported within 30 days.

      As it is now passed the 30 day mark, we recommend seeking the advice of a lawyer to discuss your options. Still do notify the bank and discuss your options.

      Hope this helps.

      Clarizza

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