How do I Avoid Debit Card Scams?

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  • Written By: Lainie Petersen
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 22 September 2018
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Debit card scams can wreak havoc in the lives of their victims. Debit cards are typically attached to checking and savings accounts, so money needed for food, rent, and bills may be drained by the scammer, leaving the victim in a precarious financial position. Although both laws and bank policies offer some protection for victims, learning to avoid debit card scams altogether is the safest, soundest approach. By guarding both your PIN and card number, being careful about where you use your debit card, and paying attention to your financial records, you can protect your funds.

One of the more common debit cards scams is known as skimming, in which a thief uses an electronic device, sometimes in combination with a camera, to steal the encoded information and PIN number from users of automated teller machines (ATMs) and other card processing devices, such as those used to pay at the pump at gas stations. Debit card security experts suggest that card holders use ATMs that are inside or connected to bank branches. Installing a skimming device takes time, so the increased security at a bank can discourage debit card skimmers. If you regularly need to withdraw cash at an ATM that is not located in a bank or in a secure building, pay attention to its appearance. If it suddenly looks different or appears to be damaged, choose a different machine.


It is also important to be cautious about giving out debit card information. Some debit card scams are perpetrated over the phone by scammers pretending to work for your bank. The call may be an automated message that asks you to type your card number and PIN into the keypad, or it may be from a live person. If you receive such a call, it is a good idea to not automatically provide the requested information, but to instead call your bank directly to verify that there is an issue with your card or account that made the call necessary.

Carefully reviewing your bank records can also alert you to potential debit card scams. Many banks offer online access to your account statement so you can regularly check your account for unauthorized charges. If you do spot a charge that may be the result of debit card fraud, report it to your bank immediately. You may also choose to avoid using debit cards that are directly connected to a bank account as a way of reducing the impact of debit card scams. Several companies sell reloadable debit cards that are not connected to your bank account and to which you can add money as you need to via an ATM or by paying a cashier at one of the many retail shops that sell these cards.



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