Being a victim of debit-card fraud is not an experience that any banking customers wants go through, but it happens. As long as there are crooks out to steal your money, you will have to practice vigilance when it comes to where you use your debit card.
Having fraud occur on a debit card, as opposed to a credit card, can pose more financial havoc. Card issuers will typically issue refunds for all unauthorized transactions for both types of card. However, with debit cards, you won’t have access to the cash that was in the account during the time that it takes for the refund to complete.
Stand-alone ATMs — those not found at bank branches — are prime targets for card skimmers, which are makeshift devices mounted on card-insertion slots to record card data. Card information is then used to duplicate cards that are used to make unauthorized purchases and cash withdrawals.
Fraudsters prefer these ATMs because they are not under the constant watch of bank associates and security cameras. Using ATMs in well-lit and high-traffic areas can reduce the chances of having your debit card skimmed.
ATMs are not the only places through which thieves like to steal debit card information. Payment terminals at gas stations are easy marks for card skimmers too — especially at self-service pumps. Like stand-alone ATMs, gas pumps are easily accessible for the installation (and removal) of skimmers with few prying eyes.
It may be unsettling but waiters have been labeled as common culprits for debit-card fraud. Commonly, diners simply hand over their cards to settle the bill and the waiter walks off to charge the card. When no one is looking, the waiter may copy down card information and return the card to the patron. Dining customers have little to reason to suspect any wrongdoing until it is too late.
So, when using a debit card, make a note to watch the waiter charge the card to ensure that there is no debit-card fraud.
Public places, such as coffee shops, hotels and airports, with wireless internet may be convenient for some leisurely shopping, but cyber-threats may be lurking in the shadows — ready to steal your debit card information as you enter it during checkout.
Malware and phishing attempts are a couple of ways that cybercriminals can get their hands on your debit-card number. And like card skimming, that information can be transferred to a blank card to make purchases and withdrawals.
Practicing safe web-surfing (i.e., using updated security software and not opening questionable links) can help, but it is best not to access financial accounts on public WiFi — even the safest passwords won’t protect you this type of debit-card fraud.
Simon Zhen is a research analyst for MyBankTracker. He is an expert on consumer banking products, bank innovations, and financial technology.
Simon has contributed and/or been quoted in major publications and outlets including Consumer Reports, American Banker, Yahoo Finance, U.S. News – World Report, The Huffington Post, Business Insider, Lifehacker, and AOL.com.