Now that the holiday shopping season is over, it’s a good time for consumers to scrutinize their bank accounts and statements for any evidence of debit card fraud.
Some of the risks associated with debit card fraud are the same as credit cards, so consumers should protect their account numbers in their wallets, online and over the telephone at all times, according to the American Bankers Association.
One threat, known as skimming, is unique to debit cards. It occurs when thieves set up a device that captures the magnetic stripe and keypad information from ATM machines, gas pumps, and retail and restaurant checkout devices.
“Over the course of the last year we have seen some of the scams becoming more sophisticated,” said Doug Johnson, the association’s senior policy advisor.
“They’re able to place a device on top of an existing ATM and go so far as to put up a pamphlet holder that includes a camera that views how you’re putting in your personal identification number. That’s a concern when you have such easily available technology to essentially skim cards at the ATM site.”
Also, anytime your debit card is taken from you to process a payment, there is
the potential for someone to use a skimming device, he said.
“There are people out there who intend to do you harm,” Johnson said.
The Electronic Funds Transfer Act protects consumers from losses from debit card fraud if they report it in a timely fashion.
Visa and MasterCard also have a zero-liability policy stating that consumers will not have to pay for any purchases made fraudulently using Visa and MasterCard debit cards, regardless of the time it takes to report the incident.
“It’s important to catch it as soon as you can, and that’s where Internet banking comes in,” Johnson said.
“You can check your balances and accounts on a daily basis. Most consumers know what they spent, and so when they see transactions from (unrecognizable) locations, they’re clearly unauthorized.”
It’s important to check your account activity regularly so you can correctly remember your transactions, as fraudulent activity can have an immediate effect on your finances, he said.
“Every week at a particular time in the day, you look at your transactions. That
keeps you from having other transactions accepted and money taken out of your account that you weren’t aware of.
Fraud also can have an immediate effect on your finances, he said.
“If money is coming out of your checking account and you don’t know it, you could end up having checks or other transactions bounce, and then have to go through the process of rectifying that as well as the unauthorized transactions,” Johnson said.
Avoiding debit card fraud
To avoid becoming a victim of debit card fraud, the American Bankers Association offers these tips:
• Check your bank statements often. Report unauthorized transactions immediately.
• If you have a reason to suspect fraud, check your account balance immediately by utilizing online banking, telephone banking, or by printing an interim statement at the ATM.
• Keep a record of card numbers, expiration dates and 1-800 numbers for banks so you can contact the issuing bank easily in cases of theft.
• Keep your receipts to check against your statement.
• Mark through any blank spaces on debit receipts, including the tip line at restaurants, so the total amount cannot be changed.
• Know your limits. Many issuers limit daily purchases and withdrawals for your protection.
• Do not use an ATM if it looks suspicious; it could be a skimming device.
• Be wary of those trying to help you, especially when an ATM “eats” your card. They may be trying to steal your card number and PIN.
• Do not give your PIN number to anyone over the phone. Thieves often steal cards and then call the victims for their PIN, claiming to be law enforcement or the issuing bank.
For additional information or other financial consumer tips visit www.aba.com and click on “Consumers.”