Your Debit Card
Debit Cards have gained in popularity over the years. They're safer than cash, less cumbersome than checks and you don’t have to worry about paying interest like you may on a credit card. But debit cards can also put you at higher risk, when it comes to fraud on your account.
With credit cards, if you spot fraudulent charges on your bill, you can simply decline the charges and not pay. But debit cards draw money directly from your checking account; so getting your money back after cases of fraud can take much longer.
And while there’s no way to eliminate debit card fraud, being careful where you use your card can help keep your checking account balance out of the hands of criminals. Here are four places you may want to avoid using your debit card.
Debit cards are a convenient way to buy products online. Unfortunately, the Web is one of the most dangerous places to make purchases. It's susceptible at a number of points in the transaction. You may have malware on your computer, so it could be at your endpoint that your information is compromised. It could be a man-in-the-middle attack where somebody is eavesdropping on your communications via the wireless network. Or it could be at the other end, when data goes into a database at the merchant. When you are purchasing online, you never really know where your information is really going and who is handling it, so it’s best to always use your credit card for these purchases.
"Would you care for a side of debit card fraud with that?"
Restaurant servers don't ask that question, but it may be something to ask yourself the next time you use your debit card at a restaurant. Any time your card is taken out of your hand and out of sight, you can be putting yourself at risk for fraud. Even restaurants without sit-down service can present a threat. When you use your card to order delivery, cashiers tend to keep your payment information on file to make future orders more convenient. But there’s no guarantee that information is being properly safeguarded.
When an ATM is set up outside, away from heavily trafficked areas, there’s a higher chance a criminal can attach a skimming device to the ATM. This device is often placed over the real card slot and can be difficult, if not impossible to detect. But once you slide your card, a skimming machine can read your card’s magnetic strip, giving thieves access to your account. You are better off using an ATM inside a retail outlet or in high-trafficked, well-lit places.
Gas stations are another danger zone for debit card use. It can be fairly easy for thieves to attach skimming devices to the outdoor pumps, just like at outdoor ATMs. They can also put a small pinpoint camera on the pump, set up to read you pin number, compromising your card that way. With the high potential for fraud in pay-at-the-pump debit transactions, it might make sense to use cash or a credit card the next time you fill up. Or if you need to use your debit card, go inside to make the transaction.