To Prevent Debit Card Fraud

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Debit Card Protection

Protect your debit card as well as the account number, expiration date, security code on the back, and the PIN. "Even if you never lose possession of your card, someone who learns your account number, security code and PIN may be able to use that information to access your account and create counterfeit cards," said Aurelia Cardamone, an FDIC Senior Technology Specialist.

While in many cases you are not responsible for unauthorized transactions (see federal protections described later), it can be a hassle resolving the situation. Here's how to avoid becoming a victim:

  • Never write your PIN on or near your card. Memorize it instead.

  • Don't give out bank account information over the phone or the Internet unless you have initiated the contact or you know the person is who he or she claims to be. For example, beware of deceptive calls or e-mails from crooks claiming to be from your bank asking you to "verify" (divulge) your account information. "Don't fall for it," said Cardamone. "A true representative of your bank will never need to ask for your PIN because your bank already has your account information.

  • Don't share your debit card PIN, security code and other account information with friends or relatives who aren't co-owners of your account. Likewise, never reveal this information to new "friends" you meet over the Internet. "Common scams start with a job offer or an Internet friendship or romance that leads to pleas for money transfers and secrecy," said David Nelson, an FDIC fraud specialist.

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  • Take precautions at the checkout counter, ATM and gas pump. Always stand so that no one can see the keypad where you enter your PIN. At retail establishments, it's best to use do-it-yourself scanners. If you give your card to a clerk, be on guard against a dishonest employee who runs your card through two scanners instead of one. The second scanner could be capturing your account information to make a counterfeit card. In general, be alert for suspicious-looking devices that may be used to "skim" information from your card.

  • If you use your debit card to shop online, consider extra precautions with your personal computer. Experts advise installing and periodically updating virus and spyware protection and a "personal firewall" to stop thieves from secretly installing malicious software on your personal computer remotely that can be used to spy on your computer use and obtain account information.

  • Look at your bank statements as soon as they arrive. Or, better yet, review your account each week by phone or the Internet. Promptly report any discrepancy, such as a missing payment or an unauthorized transaction, to your bank. Your quick attention to the problem may help limit your liability and give law enforcement authorities a head start on stopping the thief.

What federal protections cover consumers who use debit cards?

The federal Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) protects you from errors, loss or theft of your debit card. However, unlike the Truth in Lending Act protections for credit cards, which cap a consumer's liability for unauthorized transactions at $50, the law limits liability to $50 if the debit cardholder notifies the bank within two business days after discovering the theft. If you don't notify your bank within those two days, you could lose up to $500, or perhaps more. In the worst-case scenario

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