How to be debit card safe
It is becoming increasingly more difficult to keep your financial accounts secure. Debit cards, in particular, have become targets for con artists, because they lack security features you get with a credit card, such as investigating a purchase and being able to decline the charges. Once you make a purchase with a debit card, the amount is immediately deducted from your bank account. Consequently, this may not leave sufficient funds in your account to cover your legitimate expenses, and it may cause overdraft situations or bank fees.
However, there are several ways to protect yourself from fraudulent transactions:
- Always be aware of your surroundings. Don’t use an ATM if there are suspicious-looking people around.
- Whenever possible, use a bank ATM, and go during business hours.
- When you enter your PIN, cover the keyboard so that the person next to you or behind you cannot see it. They may pretend to be on the phone while recording your transaction.
- Avoid ATMs which seem broken or altered. These machines may have a skimming device attached (meaning that thieves set up a device to capture the magnetic stripe and PIN number used in ATMs).
- Don’t keep large amounts of money in your checking account. Track what you spend and transfer money as you need it.
- Keep a list of bank customer service numbers and account numbers in a secure place. In case of suspicious activity, contact the bank right away. Make sure that you store the account information and PIN separately from your ATM card.
- The Electronic Funds Transfer Act (EFTA) protects you if you report unauthorized use right away. If your card is lost or stolen, your liability limits are:
- Within two days: $50 liability limit.
- Within 60 days: $500 liability limit.
- After 60 days, there is no protection.
- If you are still in possession of your debit card, but someone fraudulently obtained your card number, you have 60 days to report the incident with no liability.
- Don’t use a debit card for online purchases, at a restaurant, gas pump, or online. Consider a credit card for these purchases.
Overall, it pays to be cautious and to keep a close eye on your finances. Check your monthly statements carefully, and get in the habit of spot checking your latest purchases regularly, either over the phone or online.