Debit Card Safety and Security

Written by Clint Turpen. Posted in Community News, Featured

Published on July 25, 2012 with No Comments

Local expert gives advice, enjoy the convenience of a debit card

Debit card use has exploded over the past few years, especially as many recession-conscious consumers began easing up on credit card use (or eliminating it altogether). Here are ten ways to enjoy the convenience of a debit card and keep your accounts and personal information secure.

1. Know your issuer’s policies
The bank or credit union that issued your debit card will have a list of rules and policies regarding card use, your liability in case of fraud, card security and more, and they should have those easily available in print or online. It’s a good idea to take a look at them, just so you know what to do if there’s a problem.

2. Memorize your PIN
Do not write your PIN on a piece of tape and attach it to the card, or write it on the card sleeve, or keep it on a slip of paper in your wallet. Don’t use birthdays, part of your Social Security number, or any information that could be gleaned from your driver’s license. Memorize your PIN. It’s only four digits. You can do it.

3. Keep track of your account online
If your card is lost or stolen, or if fraudulent charges come through, you may have a limited amount of time to report the problem to your financial institution. Wait too long and you might not be able to recover lost funds. Sign up for online banking, and check your account at least every couple days, so you’ll catch fraud sooner than later.

4. Consider using a credit card online
It may be a good idea to still use a credit card for online purchases, instead of debit. First, many credit cards carry zero-liability fraud policies. Second, your debit card is directly connected to your checking account (where your payroll check goes). A credit card isn’t. In any case, only shop online from trusted retailers with secure websites.

5. Keep your card in sight
It’s a good idea to keep your debit card where you can see it during purchases. Don’t let store clerks take it “to the back.” While the vast majority of people are honest, alone time with your card grants an opportunity to steal card information.

6. Watch out for shoulder surfers
When you’re using an ATM or paying for a purchase, check around you before you punch in your PIN. You don’t want anyone to see what numbers you punched in. Crooks can also sidle up with a mobile phone and get pictures of your card number and other information while pretending to talk or send a text message.

7. Watch out for skimmers
Before you swipe your card through any reader, it’s a good idea to make sure nothing looks out-of-place. Thieves can place a skimming device over the card slot and install cameras or other devices to harvest your PIN. Be alert.

8. Don’t fall for phishing
Never give out your card number or PIN to anyone who contacts you first on the telephone, and never fall for an email message that says you have to click a link and “verify” your debit card information. Both are methods used by identity thieves to steal personal information and access financial accounts.

9. Foil electronic pickpockets
There has been talk about “electronic pickpockets” using devices to remotely read cards that contain an RFID chip. Since most modern chips encrypt the data they transmit, you really don’t have to worry too much about it (encrypted data is useless) However, if you’re still concerned, simply keep two RFID-enabled cards in your wallet. The signals will jumble together for an even more useless mess of encrypted data.

10. Report problems immediately
As noted in the third tip above, you can’t wait too long to report a lost or stolen debit card or fraudulent activity. As soon as you notice an issue, report it to the financial institution that issued the debit card.

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About Clint Turpen

All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Clint Turpen, marketing specialist at Regional Federal Credit Union, is a certified Identity Theft Risk Management Specialist. He is an author at Regional Federal Credit Union’s Fraud Prevention Unit Web site. For more information, visit

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