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How to Protect Your Personal Finances from Debit Card Fraud


Debit card fraud is alive and well as thieves are getting smarter and sneakier about stealing PIN numbers and gleaning bank information from the web. Sixty percent of purchases are made using a debit card and 90 percent of all checking account holders have one, making many shoppers a potential target. Under federal law, you are only responsible for up to $50.00 of unauthorized purchases, however, that amount goes into effect only after you've reported your debit card stolen.

Many consumers find themselves in a pickle because they don't realize that their debit card has been stolen until the criminals have cleaned out their bank account. The days of pickpockets and overt debit card stealing are in the minority (although continue to occur). Today's debit card thief is shrewd enough to rip your number without you even knowing it. 

You don't have to be a victim and there are steps you can take to protect yourself debit card fraud. In addition to keeping your debit card in a safe place and never writing your PIN down in a nearby location, cover your tracks during use.

Use Caution When Shopping Online

Some of the top debit card scams are through pop up ads or phishing. If you've ever experienced a pop up ad after making a purchase, you may have been in danger of having your debit card number swiped. Some of these pop up ads promote special web site subscriptions or deals that sound benign but instead tap into your debit card when you agree to take part in a monthly online service. Instead of clicking "yes" to one of these deals, do some independent research on the site by opening a new browser. If you can't find it or if it looks fishy, avoid it.

Also, you may receive email notifications from your bank or another vendor asking you to "verify" your debit card number. This is called phishing and is illegal. Never proceed with an email like this and let the vendor or you bank know this occurred.

Shop at Reputable Locations

Use your debit card at stores where security cameras are in place. Skimming has become one of the easiest ways for debit card fraud to occur. The criminal witnesses you entering your PIN number and copies your card and PIN for purchases at another location. Some scoundrels have gotten so adept at this process that they arm themselves with tiny cameras to photograph the act. In addition to hovering over the machine when you enter your PIN, ask if the store has security cameras that could catch someone in the act.

Opt for Swipe and Sign

Your debit card also acts as a credit card, so sign instead of using your PIN. When given the choice, select "credit" and sign. Your PIN stays protected because skimmers won't be able to watch you inputting it into the machine.

Check Online Banking Often

Most financial institutions offer real time, secure online banking capabilities. A quick check every day will help you stay on top of purchases and identify any questionable transactions.

By taking only a few easy steps, you can save yourself thousands of dollars and hours dealing with red tape.


Gina Ragusa is a freelance writer and mom from sunny (and sometimes not) South Florida. Her 15 year experience ranges from writing about banking to tattoo parlors. Read more about her adventures at

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