Would you give a thief direct access to your checking account?
No? Unfortunately, you may be doing just that by regularly using your debit card. Debit cards may look identical to credit cards, but there’s one key difference. With credit cards, users who spot fraudulent charges on their bill can simply decline the charges and not pay the bill. On the other hand, debit cards draw money directly from your checking account, rather than from an intermediary such as a credit card company.
Because of that, even clear-cut cases of fraud where victims are protected from liability by consumer protection laws can cause significant hardship, says Frank Abagnale, a secure-document consultant in Washington, D.C.
He cites the example of the The TJX Companies Inc.’s T.J. Maxx data breach that exposed the payment information of thousands of customers in 2007. The incident resulted in $150 million in fraud losses, and much of it was pulled directly from customers’ bank accounts. While credit card users got their accounts straightened out and new cards in the mail within a few days, the case created major problems for debit card holders who waited an average of two to three months to get reimbursed, Abagnale says.
1.The idea that outdoor ATMs are among the most dangerous places to use a debit card seems a little bit absurd. But some ATMs present a perfect opportunity for thieves to skim users’ debit cards, says Chris McGoey, a security consultant based in Los Angeles.
2.Gas stations are another danger zone for debit card use. “You go to a gas station and you stick your debit card in there, and you swipe it through a machine,” Abagnale says. “I’m sitting across the street with a laptop and an antenna. I put a skimmer in there, and I’m picking up all the information. Before you even get home, I’ve debited your account.”
3.Debit cards are a convenient way to buy products online, especially for those who don’t like to use credit cards. Unfortunately, the Web is one of the most dangerous places to make purchases, McNelley says.
4.”Would you care for a side of debit card fraud with that?” Restaurant servers don’t ask that question, but they might as well with the standard practice of taking customers’ debit cards to run them behind closed doors. “Any place where the card is out of hand” can increase the chances of fraud, says McGoey. “The guy comes to your table, takes your card and disappears for a while, so he or she has privacy,” giving the person the opportunity to copy your card information.