Today, those handy debit cards account for more than 60 percent of all purchases made with plastic. 90 percent of all households with bank accounts have a debit card as well. Debit cards are surely here to stay and will probably account for even more purchases going forward.
Debit Card Scams
While convenient banking tools, these same debit cards can cause you and your household trouble. How so? In recent years, credit card thieves have gotten into the cash biz by stealing your debit card PIN and putting your debit card to work in ways that weren’t intended by you or members of your family. As a result of these incidents, more and more law enforcement and federal agencies are allocating resources to stop these criminal in their tracks. Consumer Protection agencies and organizations have also issued debit card alerts.
In the meantime, there’s a lot you and your family can do to protect yourself from debit card fraud and scams before they hit home. In particular, there are 3 devastating debit card scams that you can stop by taking preventive measures. Read on.
Debit Card Skimming Scams
There are several ways that criminals today access your debit card, PIN and bank account. One way is to “skim” your accounts by using special equipment that capture the information on the magnetic stripe and keypad information you provide when typing your PIN at the ATM, grocery store, gas pump, bars, restaurants and other retail outlets.
How to protect yourself from debit card skimming scans? Whenever asked, indicate that you would prefer to use your card as a credit card. This is the only way to avoid providing a PIN as required. By indicating “credit” rather than “debit” as you proceed with your purchase, the amount will be deducted from your bank account and processed through a credit-card network, providing greater protection from the skimmers. Other ways to stop skimming in its tracks? Only use your card at bank ATMs, rather than gas stations, convenience stores and other places that offer independently owned ATM machines. Finally, check your monthly bank statement carefully on a regular basis. Alert bank officials and retailers of unauthorized charges.
E-Commerce Pop Up Ad Scams
Have you ever had a pop up ad appear on your screen following an online debit card purchase? You know, the kind that promises cash-back and other awards if you click “yes” on the pop up ad? Be careful: you may inadvertently sign up for an online membership service that automatically deducts money from your debit card.
How to protect yourself from debit card e-commerce pop ups? Don’t click “yes” when prompted. Don’t fall for cash back and other awards programs during e-commerce transations. Finally, scour your monthly bank statement for any charges and transactions that end in “.com.” Alert bank officials and retailers of unauthorized charges. Only engage in e-commerce on secure sites and make sure you deal with well-known and reputable companies.
Debit Card Phishing Scams
Credit and debit card thieves have adapted their tactics to 21st century realities. So, be careful about providing personal information to anyone on the Internet. Even if you receive an official-looking email from your own bank seeking personal information, like debit card or social security numbers, don’t provide it. It’s probably a scam. Look for typographical errors in the correspondence. Don’t fall for official-looking letterhead or familiar bank official names. These debit card bandits aim to fool you and other consumers.
How to protect yourself from these debit card phishing scams? Call your bank. Report the fraud. Keep a copy of the scam document for your files. Provide the document to the bank or authorities as appropriate.
Advancing Privacy and Debit Card Security
You can do more to protect yourself from debit card thieves. The Federal Trade Commission and other financial pros recommend that you
1. Install anti-virus and anti-spyware software on your computer. Keep it up to date.
2. During e-commerce transactions with your debit card, make sure the “http” in the browser bar turns into “https” before providing billing information or “checking out.”. Look for the “VeriSign Secured” checkmark icon, another indication of website safety usually located at the bottom right hand side of the checkout page.
3. Turn off your computer following e-commerce or other use. Leaving computers on 24/7 makes your them vulnerable to debit card scammers and other hackers.
Credit Cards, Debit Cards, Consumer Loans
Federal Trade Commission Resource Pages
Debit Cards: Know How to Use Them
National Consumers League
Call for Action
Report from the National Consumers League Anti-Phishing Retreat
National Consumers League (March 2006)
Ten Places Not To Use Your Debit Card
By Dana Dratch for CreditCards.com in CNBC (Thursday, 18 Mar 2010)