Are you worried about debit card fraud? Find out how easy it is to safely use a debit card, avoid skimming scams at ATMs, and protect your checking account from digital theft.
Let’s get something straight from the get-go. Your debit card is a line to your checking account. If you can help it, use a credit card instead. You’ll get more base protection.
Using debit cards may be convenient for purchases, but they can be potentially dangerous in cases of fraud.
It’s also worth mentioning that fraud doesn’t just include using your debit card through normal theft or even compromises of retailers. It also includes skimmers at gas stations and ATMs.
Also, keep a close eye on your checking statement or check register if you still write checks. Getting a copy of the form you’ll need to fill out to report a phony transaction beforehand may be beneficial. This is so you can look over it. If the form is online, great. Review the page and bookmark the URL.
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How to Safely Use a Debit Card
Debit cards are a popular payment method for many people. Not only are debit cards convenient, but they also allow users to track their spending. This can be great for budgeting and staying on top of your finances.
However, it is important to remember that debit cards are not foolproof, and there are certain steps you should take to protect yourself when using a debit card. Here is what you need to know about securely using a debit card.
Read the Terms and Conditions Carefully
When activating or signing up for a new debit card, read the terms and conditions carefully to understand how your card works and what protections your bank or credit union offers.
While it’s true you are not liable for fraudulent charges on your debit cards, you still have to report phony transactions and then wait while your bank sorts it out.
You usually won’t get credited until the investigation is done.
While the investigation is underway, your checking account could be depleted, which can cause other compounding issues, such as overdraft fees from online charges and bounced checks.
Use Secure Networks When Making Purchases Online
When making online purchases with your debit card, do so on secure networks. Only use networks you trust and avoid banking on public WiFi.
Look for websites with “https” in the URL, as this indicates that the connection to the website is secure. Additionally, make sure that any websites where you enter your personal information have a valid SSL certificate installed. A green padlock icon in the address bar will usually indicate this.
These steps will help ensure that your personal information is kept safe from prying eyes on the network. This is especially important for all internet purchases, ensuring they are encrypted to protect your account information.
When you’re done shopping, log off any site after purchasing with your debit card. Close your browser if you can’t log off to help prevent unauthorized access to your account information.
Protect Your PIN
Your PIN should never be shared with anyone else, not even with friends or family. Make sure you choose a unique PIN and never write it down on anything or store it unmasked on any device, such as a laptop or smartphone, where it could easily be accessed by someone else.
Additionally, always cover the keypad when entering your PIN at ATMs or other locations where it may be visible to others who may try to steal it from you.
Other Debit Card Safety Tips
- After receiving your new card, sign it and destroy your old cards.
- Never lend your card to anyone. The person named on the card is the only authorized user.
- Memorize your PIN. Never write it down.
- Contact your bank immediately at the respective number if your card is lost or stolen or if you suspect any errors or unauthorized transactions.
- Cover the PIN pad with one hand, even if it appears that no one is watching. The goal is to make it a little harder to compromise when making purchases.
- Verify your purchases and cash receipts against your monthly account statement.
- Always protect your card as you would with cash, checks, or credit cards.
- If you choose your PIN, avoid using the last 4 digits of phone numbers, house numbers, zip codes, or birth dates.
- Always protect your PIN. Never give the number to anyone or write your number down, especially on the card. If someone is asking, refuse.
How to Avoid ATM Skimming
ATM skimming is a type of fraud that has been around for decades but has seen an uptick in activity. With the advent of new technology, knowing how to use your debit card securely is important to avoid falling victim to this crime.
Security researcher Brian Krebs does a wonderful job covering debit cards, ATM safety, skimmers, and more. It might be worth adding his blog to your favorite news reader, as his investigations are really good.
Let’s look at what skimming is and how to protect yourself from it.
What is ATM Skimming?
ATM skimming is a form of fraud where criminals use a device to steal information from the magnetic strip on your debit or credit card without you knowing.
Once the criminal has the information stored on their device, they can clone your card and use it for purchases online or anywhere else they can find a willing merchant.
It’s important to note that this type of fraud doesn’t necessarily only occur when using an ATM. Any time you swipe your card at a machine, such as at gas stations or retail stores, there’s always the chance that someone could have attached a device capable of skimming your information.
How to Avoid Being a Victim of Skimming
The best way to avoid being a victim of skimming is by being aware and taking precautions when using your debit card. Here are some tips for keeping your money safe and secure:
- Check out ATMs before using them. Don’t use anything that looks out of place, such as added devices, and alert authorities immediately. If you notice anything suspicious or unsafe, such as the lighting around the ATM not working, possible machine tampering, or the presence of unauthorized equipment attached to the machine, use another ATM.
- Never use machines in secluded places like alleyways or dark corners. These areas may provide more privacy for criminals who want to install skimmers unnoticed.
- Use cash or a credit card whenever possible. While cards are convenient, cash will always remain the most secure form of payment since there’s no data stored on physical bills that can be stolen electronically.
- Sign up for text alerts from your bank. Many banks offer alerts whenever someone uses their debit cards so customers can stay informed about their accounts. This will allow you to spot any fraudulent charges quickly before they become too much of an issue.
Other ATM Safety Tips
- Always cover your hand when entering your PIN at an ATM. This will prevent anyone from seeing what numbers you enter.
- When you’re done, put your card and cash away immediately. Count your cash later in your car or at home.
- Be aware of your surroundings, especially after dark. Try to use the ATM during the day, but if you must use an ATM at night, take appropriate security precautions.
- Don’t leave your ATM receipt at the machine. Keep this record in a safe place until you no longer need it. Shred after comparing to your statement.
- If you use a drive-through ATM, be sure the passenger windows are rolled up and the doors are locked.
- If you need emergency assistance, don’t forget to call 911.
Reconciling Bank Statements
If you see Electronic Funds Transfers (EFT) errors or you have questions about statements, contact your bank within 60 days after your statement occurred.
You’ll need to provide your name, account number, date, and dollar amount of the transaction, describe the error, and explain why you believe it is an error with as much relevant details as possible. Follow-up documentation may be due within a specified range, usually within 10 business days.
They say they’ll get to it promptly, but you could wait up to 45 days before the investigation of your complaint goes through. Your account may be credited within 10 business days, depending on bank policy.
New accounts may have additional restrictions, like the doubling of investigations. You can usually ask for copies of any documents they use in their investigation.
Securely Use a Debit Card Conclusion
Debit cards can be useful tools for making purchases, managing money, and tracking expenses, but they also come with risks if they are not used properly. By following these simple steps, you can better protect yourself from potential fraudsters and ensure that your personal information remains secure when using your debit card online or at physical locations like ATMs or stores.
Everyone should make sure their financial information is kept secure, especially with all the new technology available today, making it easier for criminals to commit fraud through ATM skimming.
By taking some extra steps such as covering up when entering pins, checking machines beforehand, avoiding secluded locations, using credit cards or cash when possible, and setting up text alerts from banks, people can keep their money safe and secure while still enjoying all the convenience that comes with having a debit card.
Don’t let yourself fall victim to this type of crime. Take precautionary measures now so you don’t regret it later. Safeguard your finances today!