A fool and his money are soon parted, goes the famous saying. Technology, rather than offering any shelter to the modern day fool, has instead introduced new ways for fools to humiliate themselves — and plenty of people are willing to capitalize on that, for laughs or for profit. A Twitter account with the handle @NeedADebitCard provides excellent evidence of how dangerous it is to have both bad judgement and a smartphone. The account just finds and posts tweets from users who have taken pictures of their debit cards. These people exist. Lots of them.
It’s a strange impulse, but it seems that people frequently share pictures of their debit card to celebrate having gotten it in the mail. Brandy Frazier, whose full 16-digit number and expiration date we now know, tweeted: “My debit card came in the mail today!” with a link to an Instagram image of her brand new Visa card. We even get what might be a fragment of her address in the image.
Another social media maven named Beth Clark actually asks “Somebody help me and tell me what my credit card number is :’(” with an attached image of a completely legible Visa card, issued by NatWest Bank (the tweet has since been deleted). This tweet, which seems to acknowledge that fellow Twitter users can read the card number, without recognizing what a self-evidently bad idea it is to share that information, is a bit of an outlier. Most tweets come from people so excited about getting their debit card, and so eager to share its customized background, that it seems they’re unaware of any security issues relating to sharing your debit card number.
Without a PIN, a scammer will not have any luck taking cash out of your account, armed only with your 16-digit number, expiration date, and name. But even without your billing address or CVV — that’s the sometimes hard-to-find three-digit number on the back of the card — they might be able to use your information to do some phone shopping. Or they might be able to Google your name to find your home address. Or maybe they’ll just tweet at you to ask for a picture of the back of your really awesome custom debit card. You’ve already proven to the world you’re a mark, after all. A phony email from someone posing as an official at your bank could be right around the corner.
Furthermore, debit cards tend to have less fraud protection than credit cards do. Consumers who report their card stolen before it is used are liable for $0 worth of transactions made with the card for both credit and debit. If it is reported within two days, that goes up to $50 for both. But between two and 60 business days, the gap between debit and credit liability widens by a factor of ten; debit users can be held liable for $500 in charges, while credit users are liable for just $50. (Fraud protection may be more comprehensive depending on the bank, card issuer and payment network.) In any case, it is more inconvenient for fraud to occur on a debit card because funds are inaccessible until they are returned to the account.
This is why unwittingly sharing your debit card online is potentially so damaging. Were you to lose your debit card, you’d know to report it missing, but if you’re acting like an idiot and posting pictures of it on the Internet, you likely won’t be aware of the fact that you’ve compromised it, meaning you’re less likely to report it missing — and more likely to lose $500 in the most humiliating self-inflicted way possible. For example, take Anna Fraiberg, who proudly demonstrates how she has attached her debit card to the back of her smartphone. “Never gonna lose my debit card again #smartidea” — if she only knew.
That people do this speaks volumes to how strange the world of money has gotten. In a world where celebrity-branded prepaid cards and custom-background credit cards are the norm, there is incentive to show off this piece of plastic that should not be shown to anyone who is not a cashier.
The Twitter account has a one-line bio, that we think is worthwhile advice: “Please quit posting pictures of your debit cards, people.”