My most important piece of advice about the usage of ATM/debit cards is this: exercise caution.
As for me, I do have a debit card and I do take it with me, but only in case of an emergency and since it’s a debit card that may earn me benefits. The risks are so high that I probably only use it once a year, if that.
Do my suspicions sound unwarranted? Am I overreacting and getting worked up about nothing? If you want to know why I think the way I do, here are four reasons:
- You are less protected than if you used a credit card.
Using a debit card instead of a credit card will leave you with less safeguards. Consider the case where you purchase a plane ticket, but then the airline goes out of business. A “chargeback” on a credit card allows you to essentially get your money back. The use of a debit card does not afford you this security.
- They could be watching.
To steal your financial information, criminals may not only be standing behind you anymore; they may also be using cameras and/or powerful binoculars to spy over your shoulder. When it comes to protecting your finances in the event of credit card information theft, some cards offer more liberal standards than others.
- The “Skimmer” Scam
When using an ATM card, you expose yourself to a high risk of identity theft. The term “skimmer scam” was used to describe it lately.
The crook places a cheap sheet of Plexiglas or similar material exactly over the slot where you put your ATM card. Your card’s data is “read” from the magnetic strip on the back of the card by shining a little light through this piece of Plexiglas. If a thief obtains this data, he or she can use it to make a fake ATM card in your name and drain your account.
- Theft of Wireless Identity
These con artists are getting more sophisticated as of late. Now they may use wireless readers that do the same function. The only real difference is that they won’t have to physically access the system again to exploit your data, thus reducing the likelihood that they’ll be detected.
Still not persuaded?
Recently, robbers used the “skimmer scam” to steal nearly $60,000 from a single machine. A single device alone. Don’t believe you’re safe from experiencing something similar since there are a million tales just like this one.
There are legitimate concerns about the safety of using ATM and debit cards, and you should be aware of them. There are several precautions you may take if you insist on carrying and using one anyhow.
- Put your free hand over the one you’re using to enter your PIN whenever possible.
When inserting a card, you should always give the slot a hard run of your hand. A computer with any “wiggling” to it is more likely to have been compromised by crooks. These slots often do not budge from their fixed positions. Never having had a compromised one, I’m told it’s easy to detect the difference.
- Using an ATM card is something I’m really considering giving up. If you need cash, it’s best to plan ahead and visit the bank before it shuts; otherwise, use a credit card, as long as you’re confident in your ability to pay off the balance in a timely manner.