FICO: Scammers Really Want Your Debit Card Info. Here’s What to Do

A computer hacker works on laptop late at night.
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Scammers lurk in the shadows waiting to compromise your debit card. They use skimmers on ATMs to steal your debit card number and hidden cameras to snag your PIN.

Chances are, you know someone who’s been duped. It might even be you.

Incidents in which debit cards were compromised at ATMs, gas pumps and point-of-sale machines rose 10% in 2017, according to a report from FICO. Generally, these types of fraud occur when a scammer attaches a skimming device to a card reader that captures and stores the number of every card that slides through it.

“ATM skimming is an over $2 billion problem globally,” Martin Bally, vice president and chief security officer at Diebold Nixdorf, told CNBC in September.

The only answer now is to stay home, watch Netflix and give up on the outside world, right? If only it were that easy. Since we have to face the outside world sometimes, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

How to Protect Yourself From Debit Card Fraud

Scammers will leave you high and dry to pick up the pieces while they revel in the fruits of your labor. So not cool.

Here’s how to keep those thieves away from your hard-earned cash.

Answer the Age-Old ‘Debit or Credit?’ Question With Ease

Knowing when to use a credit card or debit card could save you a lot of hassle. Consider using your credit card for online purchases, dining out, buying gas, big deposits and automatic payments. Credit cards generally offer more protection against fraud and limit your liability for unauthorized charges.

Check Where You Swipe

Avoid remote or out-of-sight gas pumps and ATMs. These are easier to tamper with and more likely to have skimmers attached. Your safest bet is to seek an indoor ATM or a gas pump in the cashier’s view.

Also, if the card reader looks sketchy, don’t use it.

You’ve Got Two Hands. Use Them!  

Scammers sometimes install hidden cameras near their skimmers in an attempt to get the PIN that matches the card number they just stole. As a precaution, use your other hand to cover the keypad as you enter your PIN.

Keep Your Bank in the Loop

If you travel or plan to make big purchases, give your bank a call and share your intentions. Doing this regularly can limit your risk of fraud and help your bank identify irregular activity sooner.

Use the Tools Online Banking Affords You

Check your activity and scan for any irregularities, especially if you bank online. Most banks offer text or email alerts for low balances or unusual activity. Use those. Your bottom line will thank you.

Don’t Wait. Report Your Loss Now!

If your debit card wasn’t stolen, you’re not liable for any fraudulent charges if you report the unauthorized activity within 60 days. If you report it after 60 days, chances are you can be reimbursed for most of the charges made in the first 60-day window. Any charges that could have been prevented if you had called within 60 days might not be reimbursed, according to the Electronic Funds Transfer Act.

Protect your plastic. It’s the cool thing to do.

Stephanie Bolling is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She once stopped at a Podunk gas station in a pinch and got her card skimmed. Never again.