Visa Debit Card Fraud Protection—What You Need To Know

Ashley Ferraro, Consumer Operations
Nov 8, 2023
 • 
10
 Min Read

In 2022, over 68,000 U.S. debit cardholders experienced fraud, amounting to over $196 million in losses. Due to the omnipresent threat of debit card fraud, it is necessary to remain vigilant—even an industry giant such as Visa® can’t guarantee that the businesses you might spend money at will be safe despite its numerous security precautions.

However, there are steps you can take to minimize the consequences in case your Visa debit card gets stolen or misused. This article will guide you through Visa debit card fraud protection, answering questions such as:

  • If your debit card is stolen, how much are you liable for?
  • How does Visa protect its customers in case of fraud?
  • What should you do when you notice a fraudulent transaction on your Visa debit card?

The information in this article is current as of October 2023. Visit the official Visa website or contact the company directly for updates.

A close-up photo of a Visa debit card next to a pile of coins
Source: vjkombajn

How Debit Card Consumer Protection Law Helps You in Case of Visa Debit Card Fraud

Consumer debit cards are regulated by the Electronic Funds Transfer Act (EFTA). This law protects most debit cardholders in case of billing errors and unauthorized debit card use. When a debit card is stolen or lost, the EFTA generally limits the cardholder’s liability for the unauthorized spending, but only if the incident is reported within a specified period:

  1. Within two days—maximum liability is $50
  2. Three to 59 days—maximum liability is $500


If you notify the issuer after 60 days of your card being lost or stolen, you may potentially be liable for the whole amount, as well as any overdraft fees. The good news is that many card issuers, including Visa[1], Chase[2], and Discover[3], have zero liability policies, absolving you of any financial responsibility in case of payment card misuse.

How Visa Protects Its Customers in Case of Fraud

Although Visa takes numerous safety precautions to protect consumer debit cards[4], including two-factor authentication[5], 24/7 fraud monitoring[6], and purchase alerts[4], fraud may still occur. That’s why the company established a Zero Liability Policy[1], which protects you in case your Visa credit or debit card is[1]:

  1. Lost
  2. Stolen
  3. Misused online or offline


Visa advises that you monitor your account regularly and report fraudulent activity to the issuer immediately to limit your liability for unauthorized purchases.[1]

The Zero Liability Policy states that once you report fraud, the debit card issuer has five business days to replace the funds you lost due to fraud[1]. Keep in mind that the issuer may withhold, delay, limit, or revoke the replacement funds based on reasons such as[1]:

  • Delayed reporting
  • Gross negligence, i.e., disregard for safety on the user’s part
  • Fraudulent claims of fraud in an attempt to obtain funds from the issuer
  • Claim investigation findings
  • Account standing and history


You can get the replacement funds only after the reported unauthorized transaction is posted to your account[1].

Visa’s Zero Liability Policy doesn’t cover all charges, though. Some exceptions include transactions made with certain commercial or anonymous prepaid cards and transactions that weren’t processed by Visa[1]. To check your eligibility for the Zero Liability Policy and get personalized advice, you should contact your card issuer directly.

A photo of a person using their Visa debit card for a contactless in-person payment
Source: Karolina Grabowska

What To Do When You Notice a Fraudulent Transaction on Your Debit Card

The most important step you should take in the event of a stolen, lost, or misused debit card is to report the problem to your debit card issuer promptly. Doing so will help you mitigate the potential consequences and limit your liability for unauthorized charges. 

You can contact the debit card issuer directly or through Visa’s customer support[7], which can guide you through the process or complete it for you[7]. You only need to reach out to Visa via chat or phone, and a representative will[7]:

  • Deactivate the compromised card
  • Notify your bank
  • Work with your bank to get you an emergency replacement card, which you may receive within one to three business days
  • If necessary, arrange for replacement cash to be available to you at a nearby location, typically within hours after the bank’s approval of the request 


Once your new debit card arrives, you should update your billing information to avoid penalties for missing payments you set up on your previous card.

Generally, your funds should be restored and further fraud prevented, as your debit card is protected by the law, Visa, and likely your debit card issuer. However, if you want to avoid the hassle of reporting and replacing your card, you should do what you can to prevent fraud from happening in the first place.

A photo of a Visa payment card sitting atop a laptop keyboard
Source: CardMapr.nl

How To Protect Your Debit Card From Future Fraud

The table below discusses key steps you should take to safeguard your financial information from potential threats:


Step What You Need To Do and Why
Monitor account activity You should check your bank statements regularly so you can detect potential fraud and act on it timely. You can catch it even faster if you enable transaction notifications. Some issuers may also offer fraud monitoring and alerts.
Enable transaction verification Even if your card has the EMV chip technology, you should enable PIN transaction verification if possible. That way, even if the fraudster has your debit card, they won’t be able to transact with it unless they know your PIN.
Be careful when shopping online Always look for the padlock symbol next to the URL to assess the website’s security, and read independent reviews about new merchants you’re shopping from to ensure their legitimacy and avoid scams. You should also avoid making purchases when connected to public Wi-Fi, as such networks are prone to hacking and data theft.
Beware of phishing

You should be wary of phishing messages, which may appear valid at first glance but are actually attempts to obtain sensitive user data. Never give away your financial information online or complete any other action unless you’re 100% sure the sender is legitimate. Otherwise, you run the risk of exposing your sensitive data to fraudsters. To check the validity of the message, compare it to previous messages you’ve received from the business and pay attention to any inconsistencies, such as:

  • Tone

  • Type of greeting

  • Different email address

  • Spelling errors in the message

Protect your identity online Fraudsters may attempt to hack your accounts to get hold of your card information. You should set strong, unique passwords for all your accounts to make them more difficult to guess, such as the accounts you have with online stores like AliExpress, Wish, eBay, and Shein or payment services such as PayPal and Venmo.

Virtual Cards for Extra Protection

While the above-mentioned measures are necessary, they can protect you from debit and credit card fraud only to an extent. The truth is you run the risk of having your payment card number stolen every time you provide it during a transaction. That’s where virtual cards come in as an invaluable solution for protecting your sensitive payment data.

Virtual cards are randomly generated card numbers that are connected to a real funding source but mask this information during online transactions. When you use virtual cards, potential hackers who breach the merchant’s servers can only access your virtual card numbers and never your actual financial information.

Some banks provide virtual card services to existing customers (American Express, Capital One, Citi), whereas others don’t offer them at all (Wells Fargo, Discover, Chase). Regardless, you can get more features and customization options from a dedicated virtual card provider, such as Privacy.

A photo of a person typing on a laptop
Source: Christin Hume

Get Unparalleled Security With Privacy Virtual Cards

Privacy Virtual Cards have unique 16-digit card numbers with their own CVVs and expiration dates, protecting your debit card or bank account information during online transactions.

You can generate two types of Privacy Virtual Cards, each designed for a different type of transaction:


Single-Use Card Merchant-Locked Card
You can use this card only once. You can use this card multiple times.
It auto-closes minutes after the first transaction is completed. It “locks” to the first merchant you transact with and can be used only at that specific merchant.
If hackers get hold of this card number, they can’t make any purchases with it as the card becomes invalid soon after you complete the first transaction. Potential hackers who steal this card number won't be able to use it anywhere else.

Privacy employs top-of-the-line security measures to safeguard your data, including two-factor authentication (2FA), a robust transaction monitoring system, and regular third-party audits. It’s BBB®-accredited and Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant, offering the same level of security as any reliable bank.

You can also set spending limits on your Privacy Cards to prevent overcharging and overspending. If you need to, you can close or pause your virtual cards without affecting your physical card or bank account. This option allows you to put an end to unwarranted charges from sneaky merchants or subscription services you want to cancel. Privacy will decline all charges on a paused or closed card as well as those that exceed the preset limit.

Privacy—Where Security and Convenience Meet

Besides keeping your financial data secure, Privacy can make checkouts fast and seamless with the browser extension. Available for Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and Safari, the extension autofills virtual card details at checkout, saving you from having to reach for your wallet or type in card numbers manually. iPhone and iPad users can enjoy seamless checkouts, thanks to the Safari iOS extension.

Privacy also has a mobile app for iOS and Android, which enables you to generate and manage cards on the go. You can also opt to receive real-time notifications each time your virtual cards are used or declined.

The signup process is simple—you only need to:

  1. Create an account
  2. Provide the information needed to verify your identity
  3. Add a funding source (debit card or bank account)
  4. Request Privacy Virtual Cards


Privacy gives you three pricing plans to choose from—the basic plan is free for domestic purchases and offers 12 free virtual cards a month and access to the extension, app, and features like spending limits and card pausing/closing. The two paid plans provide additional benefits, such as 1% cashback on eligible purchases (totaling up to $4,500 a month), priority support, and zero fees on foreign transactions.

References

[1] Visa. https://usa.visa.com/pay-with-visa/visa-chip-technology-consumers/zero-liability-policy.html#:~:text=things%20to%20note-,Overview,fraudulently%20used%2C%20online%20or%20offline., sourced October 2023 
[2] Chase. https://www.chase.com/digital/resources/privacy-security/security/how-we-protect-you, sourced October 2023
[3] Discover. https://www.discover.com/online-banking/security-center/, sourced October 2023
[4] Visa. https://usa.visa.com/support/consumer/security.html, sourced October 2023
[5] Visa. https://usa.visa.com/products/visa-secure.html#I_see_the_Visa_logo_when_I_m_going_through_the_extra_check_What_s_this_about_-828, sourced October 2023
[6] Visa. https://usa.visa.com/support/consumer/debit-cards.html#3, sourced October 2023
[7] Visa. https://usa.visa.com/support/consumer/lost-stolen-card.html, sourced October 2023
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