Debit Card Scams

Debit card use is up significantly in the U.S. and, as you might imagine, so are debit card scams. While scammers don’t necessarily discriminate between debit cards and credit cards, consumers are at more risk using their debit cards. That’s because debit cards are connected to a checking account and customers’ hard-earned money.  So, one way to avoid becoming a victim of a debit card scam is to use frequently validated websites for online purchases.

For consumers who prefer to use their debit card, it can be done safely, if you know what to look for and you take certain precautions. Here are three of the most common debit card scams and how to defend against them:

ATM Skimming

The oldest form of debit card fraud is still a popular method for getting to your bank account. By attaching a “façade” device on an ATM machine, skimmers lure victims who think they are using the actual card reader. Once the data is captured, the skimmers have access to your bank account.

Protection tip: Only use ATM machines located in a bank or a place of business you trust.

Gas Pump Skimming

Similar to ATM skimming but at gas stations with pay at the pump. Gas pumps are notorious for skimming because they’re produced by only a couple of different manufacturers, and if someone gets the key to one, they can insert a skimming device inside the pump where it can’t be seen

Protection tip: If you use a debit card at the gas pump, choose the screen prompt that identifies it as a credit card so that you do not have to type in your PIN.

Email Phishing

Phishing occurs when you receive a legitimate-looking email from your bank, a government agency, or a business you have used in the past, asking for personal information. The email might include a link to a website that also looks legitimate, asking you to log in to your account and then it captures your login information.

Protection tip: Just know that legitimate banks, businesses and government agencies don’t send emails asking for your debit card number or any personal information. Do not respond to any suspicious looking emails and never, ever click on a link in an email unless you’re certain it comes from a trusted source.

As a general rule, only do business with an e-commerce site that has “https” in its browser bar. If it only has “http”, walk or click away.

Pop-up Ads

Although pop-up ads aren’t necessarily illegal, they can still be nefarious and wreak havoc on your debit card account. These ads, promising cash-back rewards or “free” merchandise, pop up on e-commerce sites when you complete a purchase. While they look enticing, they actually rope you in to a membership or subscription. But you won’t know it until you see the charges show up on your bank statement. If you don’t cancel, you will continue to get charged.

Many banks consider these legitimate subscriptions, so they won’t be much help when you call them and good luck trying to call the company to ask for a refund. Some might, but others won’t.

Protection tip: Avoid pop-up ads. Just don’t go there. In addition, you should review your online bank accounts regularly to watch out for unauthorized purchases.

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