For many people, debit cards are the perfect plastic. They offer most of the conveniences of credit cards with no risk of accumulating debt.
But like credit cards, debit cards are vulnerable to rip-off artists. And debit card fraud is particularly scary because thieves can withdraw money directly from your checking account.
Here’s how debit fraud happens and how to protect yourself.
Debit card fraud can be sophisticated or old-school. Thieves use techniques including:
When you bank or shop on public Wi-Fi networks, hackers can use keylogging software to capture everything you type, including your name, debit card account number and PIN.
Be wary of messages soliciting your account information. Emails can look like they’re from legitimate sources but actually be from scammers. If you click on an embedded link and enter your personal information, that data can go straight to criminals.
Identity thieves can retrieve account data from your card’s magnetic strip using a device called a skimmer, which they can stash in ATMs and store card readers. They can then use that data to produce counterfeit cards. EMV chip cards, which are replacing magnetic strip cards, are expected to eliminate this risk.
Plain old spying is still going strong. Criminals can plant cameras near ATMs or simply look over your shoulder as you take out your card and enter your PIN. They can also pretend to be good Samaritans, offering to help you remove a stuck card from an ATM slot.
Adopt these simple habits to greatly reduce your odds of falling victim to debit card fraud:
Even if you’ve taken precautions, debit card fraud can still happen. If your card gets hacked, don’t panic. Tell your bank or credit union right away so you won’t be held responsible for unauthorized charges, and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
Roberta Pescow, NerdWallet
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