Preventing Debit Card Fraud

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Debit card fraud is on the rise, with more victims every day - but you don't have to be one of them! While there is no foolproof way to have ironclad protection, there are some simple steps you can take to better protect your personal accounts. 

From an earlier email: My purse was stolen and with it my debit card . Somehow the thief was able to access my checking account and drain $5,000. from my account.  My bank tells me they are "investigating" it to find out how they accessed the account. While they are investigating to determine if they will refund my money or not, I am out several thousand dollars. Luckily I have the money to meet my obligations for this month,  but if they don't investigate quick enough I may fall behind. It certainly made me realize the importance of protecting my bank accounts. 

Here's a simple list of things you can do today to ensure your bank account won't be drained tomorrow;

1) This may seem obvious, but don't let anyone else use your card. No one - not your friend, not your kids, not your cousin, no one! Too many cases of fraud are committed by persons known to the victim - family and friends. And unless you're willing to prosecute these people in a court of law, getting your money back isn't going to be easy.

2) Don't write your PIN on your card - or carry it anywhere in your wallet. Most bank policies will not even consider refunding you any losses if that PIN was stored with or written on your card. Shield the PIN pad when you enter your pin at a terminal, and don't choose something easy to guess - like 1111, or 1234. Don't use your birthday, house number or any other published data that a thief could easily locate, string together and crack your PIN.

3) Sign the back of your card. While it's popular to write "SEE ID" on the back, and some people even advise not to write anything, signing the back is one way to help ensure a thief doesn't just forge your signature. Sure, not all merchants check - but they should, and those that do have indeed caught thieves red handed this way. Also, most terms of service indicate that a card is not actually valid until it's been signed. It's just good practice to do so.

4) Don't use your Debit card while shopping on line or traveling.  If using your debit card online or while traveling, consider using an account that only maintains a small balance.  If it is  lost, stolen, hacked or skimmed at a compromised ATM, machine, the thieves will only have access to a limited amount of funds in that particular account.

5) Write down your credit card issuers' phone numbers and store them in a safe location. In the event that you lose your wallet or have it stolen from you, you'll want to notify the banks involved immediately, and you'll want those numbers easily at hand. Remember Debit cards are attached to your bank account and thieves can drain it dry quickly. The quicker you notify your creditors, the quicker you can protect your funds.  Even though banks claim you're liable only for a tiny fraction of unauthorized charges, if any, that is not always the case. It takes time for a claim to be investigated (sometimes up to 90 days!) - and in the meantime, you may or may not have money to tide you over -or your money back. Don't wait until Monday, or next week, or even the next day - call those numbers immediately in order to minimize your loss.

6) Monitor your accounts frequently. Check your accounts as often as possible. Online banking - offered by most institutions - enables you to monitor your accounts daily, which is ideal. Weekly will suffice, and at the very least, examine your monthly statements as they arrive for unauthorized activity. The sooner fraud is caught, the better. The sooner the bank is notified, the more likely it will be that you'll be reimbursed for your claim.

The impact felt from debit card fraud can have a domino effect.  If a thief drains your bank account, they may leave you without enough funds to meet your monthly obligations on time -and that triggers a negative chain reaction. If you fall late on your credit card payments, mortgage payments, and even your cell phone, utility and auto loan payments -your credit score will take a negative blow.  And as your credit score takes a dive, soon your interest rates and insurance premiums will rise, and so too will your monthly payments.

Remember, the best way to lessen the impact of fraud is to have a plan of action!

Spending a little time creating a plan to combat fraud today, can save you immeasurable time, money and headaches tomorrow.   


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So nice to see debit card protection advice. People are just not aware that a debit card provides less consumer protection that a credit card does. I agree, monitoring your accounts frequently is key.

Steve Rhode

I check my online account daily. Over the weekend I noticed a 50 cent charge to a company 3,000 miles away. Monday morning I called the bank and they cancelled my debit card immediately. Well Thursday my account was scammed for two $100 charges. Comment/question: I NEVER use it for anything but local purchase (gas, food, show, Walmart etc.) and I NEVER buy on the internet with it nor do I use it for autopay of bills. My card and my husband's are in our posession at this time and have always been so........SO how did someone get my information and use it?

It could have been a rogue employee skimmed the card, stole the numbers or may have been skimmed at an ATM. Or it most likely could have been involved in anyone of the many ongoing and recent data breaches in which hundreds of millions of debit and credit cards were stolen. Often we never learn how they got their hands on our data -for certain. The bad guys have gotten very good at what they do.

That small .50 cent charge though was a tip off something was wrong.

Often the thieves will first charge a small amount to the card as they check to see if active and whether or not the charge goes through.

The problem today is our information is out there -everywhere- we are no longer in control of it. I hope you contacted your bank right away and closed out the card. The thing is, it makes you question too, if they got that number, what else did they get? Search the blog and look for a variety of tips on how to reduce your risk and lessen the impact. Also see:

If you have additional questions, feel free to email me directly. Good luck, Terry!

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