Debit card fraud is a very real danger and you’ll want to be cautious when swiping your debit card — or entering your debit card number online. Because a debit card is linked directly to your bank account, you could find it wiped out before you even know your card has been stolen. And while you aren’t liable for fraudulent charges in most cases — you’ll want to bank with a financial institution that has you covered in the event that you do get scammed or have your debit card information compromised or stolen.
To keep yourself safe, read up on the danger signs and the best ways to avoid debit card fraud.
How could my debit card information be stolen?
Don’t think card theft is something that just happens to other people. Thieves and scammers work hard to part you from your money, and unless you know what to watch out for, it’s easy to fall victim to their tricks.
- If you use your debit card online, the site could be hacked and card numbers stolen. This is more true for unknown sites and stores which may not follow best security practices.
- Many scammers will simply try to talk you out of your money, calling or emailing you with ominous threats of an IRS audit, offering debt relief or claiming they’ll give you cash — but only if you hand over your credit card number.
- Whenever your card is out of your sight — which is very common at restaurants — there’s a chance someone could steal the data. While handing over a card for payment is something many of us do all the time, we may do so without realizing that there’s a risk whenever your card is out of sight.
- Card skimmers, which thieves can attach to payment terminals at self-checkouts, gas stations and ATMs, can intercept your information and pass it on to the thief. Skimmers have become increasingly sophisticated over the years, and it’s easy to mistake them for the real deal if you aren’t careful.
How to keep your card safe
Now that you’re aware of the dangers, you can guard against them. Follow these tips to help keep your debit card safe at all times.
- Only shop at trusted stores. Whether online, over the phone or in person, don’t give your debit card information to a store you haven’t heard of before, as it could be a scam. Online, make sure you’re entering your card information on a secure website with “https” and a little lock icon by the web address.
- Always keep your PIN secret. Don’t write it down, especially not on the card itself or in your wallet. That way even if a thief gets your card, they don’t have your PIN.
- Watch out for hidden cameras. Another way thieves may try to get your PIN is by having a tiny camera to watch while you enter it — often attached to a skimmer so the thief can collect your card data and PIN at the same time. Cover the keypad with your hand when you enter your PIN, just in case.
- If anything looks strange at a payment terminal or ATM, speak to a teller or cashier — or, if there isn’t one, just walk away. While card skimmers can blend in, many may have buttons in strange places or be poorly attached to the payment terminal. If something looks amiss, it could be a skimmer.
- Avoid payment terminals and ATMs in poorly lit, out of the way places where it may be easier for a criminal to tamper with them. Again, use your card at trusted stores and financial institutions — if you’re using an ATM, using one inside a banking center is safest — and speak to a teller or cashier if you’re suspicious.
- Never leave your card behind! It doesn’t matter how carefully you’ve protected your information if you forget your card at a shop or ATM.
- Review your online statement regularly and report any suspicious transactions immediately.
PenFed is always watching out for you
We take your security seriously. With PenFed, you have $0 liability for debit card fraud processed through the Visa payment system, so your money is safe even if you are caught by a scam. Further, all of our debit cards are equipped with EMV chips, which keep your data safe whenever you pay at a chip-enabled terminal. (However, if you’re swiping your card or entering the card number online, you still need to be careful.)
You can also register for card security alerts, which means you’ll get a text message if there’s any suspicious activity — so you can take action immediately. And if you suspect fraud, PenFed is here to help: contact us immediately about suspicious transactions.
Not yet a PenFed member? You can sign up for Access America Checking today to get your own PenFed debit card.