A week until Christmas?! These year-end holidays have crept up on me one too many times! I certainly don’t have everybody’s gift bought yet, let alone wrapped!
Over the next seven days I will have to scramble to get my Christmas shopping done. If you see me I’ll be the crazy haired lady running from store to store with multiple shopping bags under my arm.
Are you done with your holiday shopping yet? This time of year has us cracking open our wallets a bit more than usual. We are swiping our debit and credit cards a lot more often in anticipation of the holidays.
Unfortunately, that also opens us up to more attacks on our money. These days attacks against us come in the cyber form. Thieves are getting more and more clever with the aid of technology. Most of the time we don’t even know we’ve been hit by thieves until well after the attack. It’s only when we open up our mobile banking information or are suddenly halted from taking money out of our accounts do we realize we’ve been hit. It’s then we know we’ve become the victim of fraud.
If you’ve ever had this happen to you, you know how awful things can get. Using your debit card to buy items allows thieves to make a copy of your card so they can make purchases for themselves down the road. Not only that, but it also lets them withdraw your hard earned cash from an ATM. You could be out hundreds to thousands of dollars and be blissfully unaware for days.
Even though debit cards look identical to credit cards, they are nothing alike when it comes to cyber crimes like these. Debit cards do not have the same kind of fraud protection as credit cards. If a thief skims your credit card information and makes purchases with it, you can dispute the charges with your credit card company. You won’t be forced to pay for the unauthorized charges.
Debit cards don’t work quite the same way. Thieves can use them to pull money out of your bank accounts. While the bank investigates you won’t be able to access your money or pay bills resulting in bounced payments and late charges. Even in instances of clear cut cases of fraud, debit card holders have to wait weeks, maybe even months, to get back any money that was stolen from them.
It’s because of where these cards pull money from for payment that makes the key difference. Debit cards pull money directly from your checking account when you swipe it to pay for something. Credit cards pull from an intermediary, third party, creating a barrier between your money and everyone else.
Of course there are actions you can take to stop fraudulent charges the moment they begin. I will share those with you, but first I want to talk to you about where these kinds of crimes are most likely to occur so you can prevent this from ever happening to you in the first place.
In fact, there are four places you should never use your debit card to make purchases from. These are the places thieves target most often. That is not to say you should never shop or buy things from these places. Instead give yourself liability protection and only use your credit card at these places.
Thieves love to invade these spots because of the minimal supervision they get. Everyone pays at the pump and there is no one there to watch over the transaction. This makes it easy for thieves to put skimming devices and pin sized cameras in place at pumps to steal your money. They devise machines that blend right into the pump so you never even notice them. You just slide your debit card in and before you get home thieves have stolen your account information and pin number.
Whenever you buy gas, use your credit card or go inside and pay with cash. This will not prevent fraud altogether, but it will stop thieves from having direct access to your bank accounts and hard earned money.
Outside ATM Machines
I want to make a clear distinction between two ATM types. Those that appear just inside a bank’s doors and those that are outside, far enough away from bank security’s protective management. An ATM that is outside of a bank’s entryway are often more vulnerable to thieves installing skimming devices to steal your debit card information and pin number.
To prevent skimming at an ATM, stay away from machines that appear in need or a repair or have exposed wiring. Thieves set up skimmers inside the card reading mechanism of an ATM. If anything appears loose, damaged, or crooked on the ATM don’t slide your card in. Also be aware of prompts asking you to enter your pin in twice. This is a definite give away of debit card skimming.
You’re better off using your debit card at an ATM that is inside a bank’s doors. These machines are kept under closer watch by bank employee’s and security personnel. It’s a lot less likely a thief could install a card reader or skimming mechanism on one of these machines without being noticed.
Restaurants and Bars
Anytime you allow your card to be taken out of your site opens you up to fraud. Never let a waitress or sales representative walk away with your debit card. It is so easy for them to swipe your card through a skimmer and collect your financial data for themselves before processing your payment.
It doesn’t matter if you are eating at a fast-food or sit-down restaurant; waiters, waitresses and bartenders are common cyber-crime thieves. Always use a credit card or pay in cash when frequenting these types of establishments.
Perhaps I should have talked about this one first because it is the number one place you are likely to run into fraud problems. Shopping online leaves a customer vulnerable at numerous instances. You could have malware on your computer allowing thieves to collect your financial information. If you are like most people and use a wireless network to get online someone can hack into it to collect your debit card information that way. Even if you buy from trusted, big-box retailers their data can be compromised by thieves and your stored debit card information can be taken.
Keep your bank accounts private and your cash away from thieves by always using a credit card when you buy something online. You never know who is looking at your data, so it’s infinitely safer to use a credit card and protect yourself from losing money.
If you do use your debit card, protect yourself from fraud by ensuring your bank has your current email address and phone number. This way if your bank notices unusual activity on your debit card or in your bank accounts they can alert you immediately and possibly stop the transactions. So many people are afraid of getting solicitation calls and mailings that they don’t give their bank their correct phone number or email address. This allows thieves to steal from them without realizing it for days or even weeks at a time.
It’s also smart to let your banks know about your travel plans. If your card gets swiped at an unusual location, the card issuer may decline the suspicious transaction saving you hassle and money.
It’s important to understand the differences between credit cards and debit cards. While each has their advantages, there are key differences that can really tie up your money and bank accounts should fraud ever occur. I know credit cards get a bad rap and can get people into financial trouble. It’s precisely those things that gave rise to the popularity of the debit card. But be aware that debit cards come with their own set of problems. Plus credit cards offer a host of hidden perks you may not be aware of.
Keeping Money in Your Pocket,