Using Your Debit Card Safely

Just because you usually use your debit card in public places doesn’t mean you’re always safe. Information/identify theft can take place just about any time or anywhere – at an ATM, in your favorite coffeehouse, or when you’re buying something online.

Using Your Debit Card Safely

Here are some smart ways to help protect you and your money.

Rule number one. Keep your PIN a secret. Memorize your PIN, and never write it on your card or store it with your card. Do not let anyone else enter your PIN for you. Don’t give your PIN over the telephone. No company or person should ever ask for your PIN, not even your bank or credit union. If you use your debit card to make a purchase by phone, never disclose your PIN. (Did we mention, keep your PIN a secret?)

Watch your email. Your tech savvy friends know, email is probably the most common method of identity theft and electronic fraud. Don’t provide your debit or credit card number, PIN or other personal information in response to an unsolicited email or online request. Electronic security pros recommend different PINs for different accounts. And it’s a good idea to change your PINs often.

Be smart online. The Web is a big place, and it is not getting any safer. So be careful when shopping online – whether you’re buying gifts or just adding a few features to your favorite multiplayer game persona. Look for secure transaction symbols, such as the little “lock” logo in the lower right-hand corner of your browser window and Web addresses that start with “https.” Log off from a site after you complete a purchase, and if you can’t log off, close your browser to protect your personal information.

Don’t wait. If your card is lost or stolen, report it to your financial institution right away. By notifying your bank or credit union immediately, you reduce the chance that your card will be used improperly. Even better, you limit your potential liability – translation: the money you actually lose – for unauthorized transactions by scammers or hackers. For more information on reporting problems, see the “If Your Debit Card of Personal Information is Stolen” section of DebitSavvy.org.

Keep an eye on your money. Review account statements from your financial institution or credit union when you get them. Or better yet, sign up for electronic banking to get secure online access to your account day or night. Report any problems or questions, including transactions you think may be unauthorized, right away. Again, quick action can limit misuse and save you money.

Protect your card. If the magnetic stripe on the back of your card is damaged or demagnetized, the “swipe and buy” process cannot work. So don’t expose your card to magnetic objects, dirt and grit, keys or other objects that can nick the stripe.

Here are some additional tips on the secure use of debit cards and ATMs:

  • Block the view of others when entering your PIN at an ATM or debit terminal
  • Don’t let a cashier or anyone else enter your PIN, even if they are helping you with the transaction
  • Make sure your ATM or debit transaction is complete, then review your receipt before leaving the terminal
  • Be aware of your surroundings before using a public terminal, such as a walk-up ATM in a mall or at a gas station
  • It’s smart to take a friend with you when using a public ATM or debit terminal at night or in a remote location
  • If anyone or anything seems suspicious when you are using a public terminal, leave the area immediately
  • If you get cash during an ATM or debit terminal transaction, put it away before leaving the terminal
  • If someone follows you after you have conducted a transaction at a public terminal, go to a crowded, well-lit area immediately and call the police