Are you among the quarter of Americans who have experienced debit card fraud?According to creditcards.com in 2014 the U.S. was among the top five countries in the world with the highest rates of compromised debit card accounts over a five-year period (Holmes). Sure, debit cards offer consumers convenience, but security has remained an issue for 35 percent of Americans in the same 2014 survey (creditcards.com, Holmes).
Undoubtedly debit cards are the new cash. You probably depend daily on plastic for many purchases. There's no arguing they have made your life simpler, but the heavy reliance on debit cards also increases your chances of becoming a victim of identity theft. You may not realize the following places and situations are risky when it comes to using your debit card.
When choosing to use your debit card for online purchases you could be putting your checking account at risk should hackers gain access your account number. On the other hand, fraudulent charges made to your credit card are less devastating since they do not pull funds from your checking account. Although fraud made to both types of cards can be disputed, with a credit card breach your personal funds are inaccessible while the fraud is being investigated.
Also, when making an online transaction, always look in front of the website address for a security symbol such as an unbroken key or padlock. When you see one of these symbols it means you are using a secure connection. These symbols mean your information will be encrypted and therefore harder for hackers to access.
Paying Your Restaurant Bill – Including the Drive-thru Window
The risk associated with using your debit card at a restaurant occurs when your card is no longer in your possession. Not only does the card disappear from sight, where it can easily be copied, but it is potentially seen or handled by additional restaurant staff. While avoiding such situations may not be “practical”, finding a workable solution such as using a credit card or getting cash ahead of time are safer options.
Not Closing Out Your Tab
Telling the bartender it is okay to keep your tab open is not the best idea. This sales tactic is used to entice spending based on convenient access to your account without the hassle of producing your card each time you place an order. The pitfall here is obvious. As long as your account is “open”, you may as well give the bartender and others permission to use it. At least with a credit card, you have the right to dispute unauthorized charges without having funds removed from your bank account. The wisest option is to close out your tab upon receiving your order.
Using Random ATMs
ATMs located in convenience stores, game rooms, event centers, bus stations, airports and other out-of-the-way places are at greater risk of having a thief attach a "skimming" device. If you use an ATM that has been tampered with, your debit card information can be captured and used to clean out your bank account. This sometimes happens at financial institutions as well, but it is easier to do in a place without adequate surveillance. Rather than take the chance, stick to using your financial institution’s ATM.
Required Deposits at Hotels, Stores and Gas Stations
When making hotel reservations or renting equipment at a big-box store, more often than not a sizable deposit is required until you make good on the agreement. In these scenarios you want to use a credit card instead of a debit card. This way the store or hotel/resort has its security deposit and your funds are not held hostage. More importantly, your debit card information is not stored in their system where it could be hacked.
In the case of gas stations, many will place a “reserve” on your account which reduces the amount of money available for a period of time. Gas pumps are also easy targets for “skimmers”.
Additional Rules for Keeping Your Debit Card Safe
Now that you are more aware of common risks associated with using your debit card, here are a few related suggestions for ensuring your debit card’s safety.
Check Your Account Activity
Want to receive full fraud protection should your account be compromised? Make a habit of reviewing your bank account(s) online once a week; daily if you have the time. In the case of fraud, time is of the essence and can mean the difference between your account being cleaned out or not.
Avoid Using Public or Unsecure Wi-Fi Access for Financial Transactions
Make sure you are using a password protected wireless signal to check your account balance(s), pay bills and shop online so hackers have less of a chance to capture your password and account information.
When to Give Out Your Account Information
Your credit-card issuer will never call or email you to ask for your account number. If you initiated the correspondence then you can assume it is safe to provide your account information.
Storing Your Debit Card
The secret is to treat your card(s) similar to how you treat cash or checks. It is recommended you store your debit cards (and credit cards) in a safe place when you are not carrying them with you.
There is no going back to a world without debit cards and there is no denying debit cards are convenient to use. They undoubtedly make our lives simpler. But, they also increase our chances of becoming a victim of identity theft. Keeping these common-sense tips in mind will help you avoid the risk of becoming a statistic, while keeping your funds safer and more secure.