Credit card fraud in Australia – and how to avoid it

The common scams to watch out for, tips to help keep your details safe and cards that offer extra protection.

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Many Australians have been the victim of credit card scams and online fraud. Data from the Australian Payments Network showed that card fraud cost $447.2 million in the 2019/20 financial year. Most of this happened online through card-not-present (CNP) fraud, which made up the bulk of card fraud (87.7%).

Credit cards already offer zero liability policies that protect you against fraudulent charges (so you don't have to pay for them). Many cards also have fraud-monitoring software that detects suspicious activity. But there are also some strategies you can use to protect your account from fraud in the first place.

Ask an expert: What can people do to keep their credit card details safe online?

Cyber security expert Mark Jones.Mark Jones
Cyber security expert

As the number of Australians choosing to shop online continues to increase, it's critical consumers are aware of the inherent risks involved and know how to protect their personal information. There are a number of things consumers must do to keep their credit card details safe when shopping online, including:

  • Never storing your credit card details in the browser when prompted
  • Never entering your credit card details on public use computers
  • Never providing your credit card details via email
  • Only entering credit card details on secure sites, identifiable by a locked padlock in the address bar
  • Only buying online from retailers you know and trust by reviewing business details and online reviews
  • Avoiding illegitimate websites flaunting deals that are too good to be true

Consumers must also educate themselves about common online threats. There is a wide range of free, educational resources and information available online that consumers can access, including the Stay Smart Online Program or the ACSC Alert Service.

Who do I contact if I suspect that my credit card has been used fraudulently?

Depending on your circumstances, you have a few options:

Contact your bank

If you spot suspicious activity on your credit card account, contact your card issuer immediately to freeze your account and resolve the issue. If you have the card handy, call the number that's printed on it to speak to a representative. You can also see a complete list of domestic and overseas contact numbers for the major Australian card issuers in this guide for more information.

Australian-issued cards are usually covered by Visa or Mastercard's Zero Liability agreements or American Express' credit card fraud protection, which means you'll be refunded any defrauded funds. However, terms and conditions will apply. For example, you may be required to report the issue within a set number of days.

Report it to the ACCC

If your account was compromised through a scam, you should also report the scam to the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) on 1300 300 630.

Contact the Australian Federal Police

You can see the relevant police contact number for your state below.

  • ACT. 6131 3000
  • NSW. 9286 4000
  • NT. 8980 1300
  • QLD. 3222 1222
  • SA. 8416 2811
  • TAS. 9607 7777
  • VIC. 9607 7777
  • WA. 9320 3444

How does credit card fraud work?

These are the types of credit card fraud that you should watch out for and how they work:

  • Card-not-present fraud. This involves your card details being used to make online and over-the-phone transactions, where there is no need for a physical card, a PIN or a signature.
  • Counterfeit card fraud. Fraudsters can use your credit card data to make a counterfeit card. They can get your data through a method called skimming or can buy it from black markets.
  • Not-received fraud. This is when someone accesses your card before you do, such as through your mailbox when you've applied for a new card.
  • Application fraud. In this case, someone might apply for a credit card in your name, using your personal details and then use it to make purchases and cash advances. This is often linked to further identity theft issues, as they would need to be able to provide enough documentation to actually get approved for a card in your name.

6 tips for avoiding credit card fraud

Credit card fraud can come in many forms, so here are some of the strategies you should use to protect your account.

1. Keep your credit card secure

Always cover your card when entering your PIN at the checkout or when withdrawing cash from an ATM. If you've lost your credit card, contact your bank immediately to cancel the card and get a new one issued as soon as possible.

2. Regularly review your statement

As well as keeping track of your spending, it's wise to regularly check your credit card statement to stay on top of any suspicious behaviour. This is relatively easy to do if you're using Internet banking or an app.

Although your bank will usually contact you if they spot suspicious transactions on your account (such as a large or overseas transaction), you may catch a fraudster early if you're reviewing your statement. This is because they may test your account first by making a small transaction (at either a domestic business or one overseas) before making a big purchase. The sooner you spot any odd listings on your account and report them to your bank, the better.

3. Check your credit report

As well as your credit card statement, you should also monitor your financial history through your credit report. If you see any listings (such as applications) that you didn't make, contact the relevant card issuer and the credit reporting bureau immediately to investigate the issue and have it removed from your report.

You can get a free copy of your Experian credit report and score through Finder to get started.

4. Use secure websites

When you're shopping online, look for https:// at the beginning of the website address instead of http://. This means that the website has added security and you're less likely to be a victim of fraud.

You should also look at the website's reviews to see if there is any evidence of negative feedback or poor reviews of products. If an item is offered for considerably less than the online retail price, you should also be wary as it's likely to be a scam.

When you're using your credit card online, you could also consider using encrypted services such as PayPal which allow you to shop without sharing your financial details with the website.

5. Be wary of suspicious emails, text messages and calls

The correspondence will vary, but a scam email or text message could be asking you to update your details, reporting an overdue account or flagging a fraudulent transaction. Messages claiming you've won a prize or competition are also common. So be extra cautious if you haven't entered a competition and don't provide your personal details to an unfamiliar caller or in response to an unexpected text message.

If you receive an email or text message that appears to be from your bank, always check the phone number and address that it's from before responding. Don't click on any links or download any attachments from any email. If you're suspicious, don't respond and contact your card issuer directly via the contact number listed on their website instead.

Other tell-tale signs of a phishing email include addressing the email to "customer" rather than your full name, spelling and grammatical errors, odd symbols and incorrect logos. If you suspect these are suspicious, you can report it to the ACCC, mark it as spam and block the email or contact number.

If you receive a call from someone who claims to be your bank and asks you to confirm your card information, don't provide any information. Instead, contact your bank directly using the contact details listed on their website to find out if it was a legitimate call. You should be especially careful if the call is from an international or blocked number.

6. Notify your bank if your address or contact details change

If your residential details change, contact your bank to have your details updated so that any new cards or bank statements aren't sent to your old address. You should also update your contact information if it changes so that your bank can contact you regarding a potentially fraudulent transaction on your account.

Credit card security features

  • Chip technology. The microchip that is embedded in your credit card encrypts the sensitive data that's needed to make in-person payments. Compared to cards that only have a magnetic stripe, this technology makes it harder for the card to be copied or counterfeited. However, you do need to insert the card for transactions in order to get the full benefits of the chip technology.
  • Contactless security. Every time you tap and pay with your Mastercard, encryption protects your transaction data. This encryption is unique for each transaction and also helps protect your contactless mobile payments. The fact that you can tap to pay without handing over your card also makes it difficult for the card to be skimmed or copied.
  • Mastercard SecureCode and Visa Secure. These services give you added security for online purchases. Mastercard SecureCode and Visa Secure are not available on every credit card, but when they are, you will be sent a verification code (usually via SMS), asked a security question or prompted to enter a pre-chosen password before the payment is processed. This step helps verify that you are making the purchase and also reduces the risk of unauthorised transactions.
  • Tokenisation. While chip technology encrypts your card data for in-person transactions, tokenisation offers a similar type of security for online transactions. This technology replaces your credit card's 16-digit number with a unique alternate number that's known as a "token". Put another way: when tokenisation is used, your card's details cannot be stored, hacked or compromised. Tokenisation can be used for online transactions, in-app purchases and in-person mobile payments.

Other credit card security features

Depending on your bank or provider, you could also have some access to a range of other credit card security features, including:

  • Physical card details. Your unique credit card number, three-digit CVV security code, signature panel, hologram and account name on the card all combine to help keep it secure. The CVV, in particular, adds a layer of security to online transactions.
  • Expiry date. Credit cards expire at regular intervals so as to reduce the risk of fraud. When your card expires, a new card is sent to you with updated details, including a new card number and expiry date.
  • Fraud monitoring services. Many card providers have specialised teams dedicated to monitoring cardholder activity for fraud, and any irregular transactions are immediately detected and investigated. This is why you may sometimes receive a call or text from your card company to verify that it was you who made a transaction.
  • Chargebacks. Chargebacks can be requested if a transaction has been fraudulent, processed in error (e.g. processed twice at checkout), or if the purchased goods were not received. In these instances, your card provider may initiate a dispute with a merchant to reverse the transaction.
  • Online and mobile account security. Internet and mobile banking services all offer security features to help keep your card and other accounts safe. This usually includes:
    • Automatic logout if your account is idle, which helps stop anyone else from making changes.
    • Authorisation codes to confirm any transactions or major account changes. These are usually sent as a text to your phone.
    • Details of your account activity, including when you last logged in.
    • Alerts of unusual activity, for example, logging in from a new device.

How does a credit card fraud protection guarantee work?

Also known as "zero liability", this security feature protects you against the loss of money from fraudulent transactions. To get your money back after fraud, you'll need to report any unauthorised transactions to your credit card provider as soon as possible. They will then investigate the charges to confirm that the activities are fraudulent.

Each credit card provider has slightly different processes around fraud and they are outlined in your credit card terms and conditions. But generally, you'll need to meet the following conditions:

  • Sign your card. You'll need to fill out the signature panel on your credit card to get protection against fraudulent transactions. Signing your card also shows that you agree to the account's terms and conditions, which is required before you can access features such as fraud protection.
  • Keep your PIN safe. If you share your PIN with someone else and they use your account, it usually won't be counted as a fraudulent transaction. That means you're unlikely to be refunded through a fraud protection guarantee and may have to find another way to get the money back.
  • Contact your credit card provider immediately. As soon as you suspect your card is compromised, call your credit card provider and let them know so they can help you through the situation.
  • Provide any further details as required. Sometimes, your credit card provider may ask you to fill out additional forms while they are investigating the fraud. When that's the case, make sure you give them as much information as you can and respond as quickly as possible to help speed up the process.

When will I get my money back from fraud?

The time it takes to get your money back after fraud varies between credit card providers. It can also depend on the type of fraud.

So in some cases, you could be refunded within 7 to 21 working days, while in others it may take longer than that to get your money back. If you want to know more, check with your credit card provider to find out how the process works and what you can do to resolve fraudulent charges as quickly as possible.

Credit card fraud can be an overwhelming experience, but it's important to remain calm and contact your card issuer as soon as possible. For an example, check out how Amy Bradney-George (one of Finder's credit card experts) kept her cool as well as what she learned when she was subject to credit card fraud.

How to spot a fake credit card

If you're working somewhere and are worried about someone using a fake credit card, keep an eye out for these potential signs someone is trying to use a fraudulent credit card.

  • Signature panel. Legally, credit cards must have a signature panel that is signed. However, some people choose not to sign their card, so it's not always a sign of fraud. But if you doubt the validity based on the signature, ask for a form of photo ID and check that the name on it matches the one on the card.
  • Uneven numbers on the card. Even if the numbers are embossed, check to see if they are printed in a straight line. Crooked numbers could indicate it's a badly printed fake.
  • Scratched or defaced cards. If the front of the card is beaten up so you can't check details such as the name, or if the signature panel is scratched away, it's safer not to accept a payment. Explain that you can't accept the card in that condition and suggest the person use another payment option.
  • Expiry date. Check that the card has a valid expiry date and note how long it is valid. Generally, cards usually expire around 3 to 5 years from the date they were issued. So, for example, if a card issued in 2021 showed an expiry date in 2031, you could question its legitimacy.

What should I do if I think someone is paying with a fraudulent card?

If you spot a card that looks suspicious, you don't have to accept it for the payment. Remain calm and explain to the person that the card won't be accepted.

If there are visible signs of tampering, you could also call the company or bank that has issued the card and ask them to confirm it is valid. If you feel anxious or threatened, call your manager, a security officer or your local police station.

Compare credit cards with a fraud protection guarantee

Every Visa, Mastercard and American Express have fraud protection guarantees. If we listed them all, you'd be looking at about 270 cards here. So we've taken our best credit cards and listed them here to help you narrow down your options.

Name Product Purchase rate Interest-free period Annual fee Balance transfer rate
Kogan Money Black Card - Exclusive Offer
20.99% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$0
0% p.a. for 22 months
0% Balance Transfer Offer & $50 Kogan.com Credit
Save with a $0 annual fee and a 0% introductory rate on balance transfers. Plus, earn $50 Kogan.com Credit and uncapped rewards points.
ANZ Rewards Platinum - Exclusive Offer
20.24% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 p.a. thereafter)
20.24% p.a.
150,000 Bonus Points & $0 First-Year Annual Fee
150,000 bonus Reward Points (worth $670 in gift cards) when you spend $1,500 on eligible purchases in the first 3 months. $0 first year annual fee. Ends 30 July 2021.
Coles Rewards Mastercard - Exclusive Offer
19.99% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$0 annual fee for the first year ($99 p.a. thereafter)
0% p.a. for 26 months
0% Balance Transfer Offer & $100 off a Coles Supermarket shop
Get 0% on balance transfers for 26 months & a $0 first-year annual fee. Plus $100 off a Coles Supermarket shop (spend $1,500 in 60 days).
St.George Vertigo Card
13.99% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$0 annual fee for the first year ($55 p.a. thereafter)
0% p.a. for 30 months
0% Balance Transfer Offer & $0 First Year Annual Fee
Save with a 0% interest rate on balance transfers for 30 months (with no balance transfer fee) and a $0 annual fee for the first year.
NAB Qantas Rewards Signature Card
19.99% p.a.
Up to 44 days on purchases
$295 annual fee for the first year ($395 p.a. thereafter)
0% p.a. for 6 months with 2% balance transfer fee
Up to 110,000 bonus Qantas Points & First-Year Annual Fee Discount
Earn up to 110,000 bonus Qantas Points (90,000 when you spend $3,000 in the first 60 days and 20k after 12 months).
HSBC Platinum Credit Card
19.99% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$29 annual fee for the first year ($129 p.a. thereafter)
0% p.a. for 36 months
0% Balance Transfer Offer & $29 First-Year Annual Fee
Save money with a 0% balance transfer rate for 36 months (with no BT fee), a first-year annual fee discount and free travel insurance.
NAB Low Rate Credit Card
12.99% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$0 annual fee for the first year ($59 p.a. thereafter)
0% p.a. for 32 months
0% Balance Transfer Offer & $0 First-Year Annual Fee
Get a 0% interest rate on balance transfers for the first 32 months (with no BT fee). Plus, save with a $0 first-year annual fee.
Qantas Premier Platinum
19.99% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$225 annual fee for the first year ($299 p.a. thereafter)
0% p.a. for 18 months with 1% balance transfer fee
80,000 Bonus Points & 80 bonus Status Credits
Earn 80,000 bonus Qantas Points when you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months, 80 bonus Status Credits on eligible spend and a reduced first-year annual fee.
Citi Clear Card - Exclusive Offer
14.99% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$49 annual fee for the first year ($99 p.a. thereafter)
0% p.a. for 28 months
0% Balance Transfer Offer & First-Year Annual Fee Discount
Offers 0% p.a. on balance transfers for 28 months with no balance transfer fee and a discounted $49 first-year annual fee.
St.George Amplify Signature - Qantas
19.74% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$279
0% p.a. for 15 months with 1% balance transfer fee
Balance Transfer Offer & 90,000 Bonus Points
Get 90,000 bonus Qantas Points when you spend $6,000 using your new card within 90 days from approval and 2 Qantas Club lounge invitations per year.
ANZ Low Rate
12.49% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$0 annual fee for the first year ($58 p.a. thereafter)
0% p.a. for 30 months
0% Balance Transfer Offer & $0 First-Year Annual Fee
Save with 0% p.a. on balance transfers for 30 months (with no BT fee) and $0 first-year annual fee. Plus a 12.49% p.a. purchase interest rate.
Suncorp Clear Options Platinum Card - Exclusive Offer
20.74% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$64 annual fee for the first year ($129 p.a. thereafter)
0% p.a. for 24 months
0% Balance Transfer Offer & 25,000 Bonus Points
Receive a 0% balance transfer rate for 24 months and a reduced first-year annual fee. Plus, 25,000 bonus Suncorp Credit Card Rewards Points.
Bankwest Breeze Classic Mastercard
0% p.a. for 15 months, reverts to 9.9% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$0 annual fee for the first year ($49 p.a. thereafter)
0% p.a. for 15 months
0% Purchase Rate & Balance Transfer Offers
Save with 0% p.a. on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months (with no BT fee). Plus, a $0 first-year annual fee.
Citi Premier Qantas Card
21.49% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$175 annual fee for the first year ($350 p.a. thereafter)
0% p.a. for 6 months
75,000 Bonus Qantas Points & First-Year Annual Fee Discount
Get 75,000 bonus Qantas Points when you meet the spend requirement, a first-year annual fee discount and complimentary travel perks.
Westpac Low Rate Card
13.74% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$0 annual fee for the first year ($59 p.a. thereafter)
0% p.a. for 28 months with 1% balance transfer fee
$0 First-Year Annual Fee & 0% Balance Transfer Offer
Save with a $0 annual fee for the first year, plus, a 0% interest rate on balance transfers for 28 months.
Citi Rewards Card - Points & Gift Card Offer
21.49% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$49 annual fee for the first year ($149 p.a. thereafter)
0% p.a. for 15 months
90,000 Citi Rewards Points and $100 Coles eGift Card
Receive 90,000 bonus Citi reward Points (worth $400 in gift cards) and a $100 Coles eGift Card when you spend $3,000 in the first 90 days.
Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Card - Balance Transfer Offer
20.74% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$64 annual fee for the first year ($129 p.a. thereafter)
0% p.a. for 26 months
$129 Gift Voucher & Balance Transfer Offer
Get 0% p.a. on balance transfers for 26 months, a reduced 1st year annual fee & $129 Virgin Australia Gift Voucher yearly.
Bankwest Zero Platinum Mastercard
14.99% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$0
0% p.a. for 26 months with 2% balance transfer fee
No Annual Fee & 0% Balance Transfer Offer
Get 0% p.a. on balance transfers for 26 months (with a 2% BT fee), ​an ongoing $0 annual fee and 0% foreign transaction fees.
Coles No Annual Fee Mastercard
19.99% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$0
0% p.a. for 12 months
$100 off a Coles Supermarket shop & 0% Balance Transfer Offer
Get $100 off a Coles Supermarket shop when you spend at least $1,500 in the first 60 days. Plus, a 0% balance transfer offer.
Coles Rewards Mastercard
19.99% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$0 annual fee for the first year ($99 p.a. thereafter)
0% p.a. for 14 months
40,000 Bonus Flybuys Points & $0 First-Year Annual Fee
Get 40,000 bonus Flybuys Points or $200 off a Coles Supermarket shop, a $0 first-year annual fee and a 14-month balance transfer.
Bendigo Bank Low Rate Credit Card
0% p.a. for 12 months, reverts to 11.99% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$45
0% p.a. for 12 months with 2% balance transfer fee
0% Purchase Rate & Balance Transfer Offers
Save with 0% p.a. on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months (with a 2% BT fee).
Citi Rewards Card - Balance Transfer Offer
21.49% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$49 annual fee for the first year ($149 p.a. thereafter)
0% p.a. for 30 months
30-Month Balance Transfer & Annual Fee Discount
Save on interest with 0% p.a. on balance transfers for 30 months with no balance transfer fee. Plus, a $49 first-year annual fee.
Citi Clear Card
14.99% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$49 annual fee for the first year ($99 p.a. thereafter)
0% p.a. for 15 months
$250 Cashback & 0% Balance Transfer Offers
Get $250 cashback when you spend $3,000 within the first 90 days. Plus, a 0% balance transfer offer and first-year annual fee discount.
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14 Responses

    Default Gravatar
    alaaSeptember 3, 2015

    i contacted immigration service company & they charged me 1200 us, but i found that they are scammers. how master card company can help me returning the money.

      Avatarfinder Customer Care
      SallySeptember 3, 2015Staff

      Hi Alaa,

      Thanks for your inquiry.

      If you believe that you are a victim of a scam, you need to contact your credit card issuer immediately and explain your situation. It would also help if you can present your provider all the necessary documentation that will serve as a proof that you have been defrauded.

      You can also file a complaint to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission by securing a consumer complaint form online, or via phone.

      Please refer to the links I have sent to your email for the complaint form and contact details of ACCC.

      I hope this has helped.

      Cheers,

      Sally

    Default Gravatar
    AntoniaJune 9, 2015

    How to find out the credit cards under my name?

      Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JonathanJune 9, 2015Staff

      Hi Antonia,

      Thanks for your inquiry.

      An individual’s credit cards will generate monthly statements sent to the user’s designated address. Credit inquiries can also be checked by requesting a copy of your credit file.

      Cheers,
      Jonathan

    Default Gravatar
    EricaMarch 16, 2015

    We found someone has been stealing money from our debit card. It is like $40 per week in average and this had been continuing for more than 3 months. It belongs to my partner’s account. We stopped the fraud by reporting it to the bank, ANZ. But bad news is the bank said they can only cover the losses up to 120 days in time from the day we reported. We are trying to look back to see WHEN this started and how. What made me upset is, when I looked into the transaction description, the online companies that made the scams are so many and under different names. How can this happen for so long time without being notified by the bank? Do we have the right to claim for our losses prior to the 120-day time?
    Thank you very much for help.

      Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JonathanMarch 17, 2015Staff

      Hi Erica, thanks for your inquiry.

      The claims for losses from a fraud situation would be up to the lender/bank’s policies and lending criteria.

      I hope this has helped.

      Cheers,

      Jonathan

    Default Gravatar
    ShelaFebruary 26, 2015

    Wow loads of good tips!

    Default Gravatar
    EmmaMay 11, 2014

    Is it legal for a restaurant to ask to hold my credit card until the end of the meal? I have offered my drivers’ license, but they want my card. I’ve said they can do a pre-authorisation, but refuse. They wont run a tab/bill without it, and some have min. purchase amounts to allow me to use a card. I’ve worked in the industry, Unless I have your card (in the safe), your card IS NOT SAFE! Is this legal under the new, amended CC laws in Australia?

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