With the proliferation of debit cards, you just had to know that debit card fraud was close behind. While you may not have any control over hackers, phishers, or other thieves, there are plenty of things you CAN control that will help you avoid becoming a debit card fraud victim.
How to protect yourself from debit card fraud
1. Get banking alerts
Don’t just check you bank balance, ask your bank if it offers banking alerts. Your bank will then contact you by email or text message when your specified activity occurs with your account.
2. Go paperless
By signing up for paperless bank statements you can reduce (or even eliminate) your chance of becoming a victim of debit card fraud since your bank account information can’t be stolen from your mailbox. Also, use a shredder to make sure your information isn’t lifted from your trash.
3. Make withdrawals only at bank ATMs
Bank ATMs tend to have better security (video cameras, security guards) than ATMs at convenience stores, restaurants, retail stores, malls, and other places.
4. Destroy old debit cards
Some shredders will chew up and spit out those old cards.
5. Don’t keep all your money in one place
I have two checking accounts that I regularly use (one being PerkStreet). Why two accounts? If my primary checking account is compromised, I want to be able to access cash from another source to pay for necessities and pay my bills while I get things straightened out.
6. Beware of phishing scams
No bank will ever contact you with a link to log in to your account. When checking your email or doing business online, make sure you know who you’re interacting with.
7. Protect your computer
Threats change and evolve constantly so use firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software on your computer, and keep it updated regularly.
8. Use a secured network
Don’t perform any personal financial transactions online if you’re using your computer in a public place (coffee shop, hotel, etc) or over any unsecured network.
What to do if debit card fraud happens to you
If you find that your debit card or checking account information has been compromised, contact your bank immediately! By getting on top of things quickly, you’ll limit the damage the thief can do and you’ll limit your personal financial responsibility for the fraud. Make your initial contact by telephone, and then follow up within 24 hours with a detailed letter that outlines:
- The name of the bank employee(s) you talked with
- Any details about the fraudulent transactions
- Ideas you have about how your account could have been compromised.
Ask your bank to waive any NSF fees that may have been charged as a result of the fraud and ask the bank to restore the fraudulently withdrawn funds back to your account.
If you have trouble getting your bank to see things from your point of view, contact a consumer advocacy group like the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. There are also government organizations to contact if your bank refuses to cooperate. The agency to contact depends on the type of bank you use.
- The Federal Reserve Board of Governors handles complaints for state-chartered Federal Reserve banks, bank holding companies and branches of foreign banks.
- The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) oversees national banks.
- The FDIC deals with state-chartered, non-Federal Reserve banks.
- The National Credit Union Association handles federally chartered credit unions.
- The Federal Trade Commission handles everybody else.
Always remember, you are the customer and you did nothing wrong! Don’t let your bank make you a victim twice, so if you bank doesn’t see things your way, don’t be afraid to switch. Read How to Switch Banks In 6 Easy Steps to learn more.
If you a thief’s fraud caused you to have trouble making any of your monthly payments, contact those creditors immediately and explain the situation. Ask if they have any programs for this type of situation and ask if they can do anything for you. Tell them you want to make sure they are paid. This last step is very important, since you don’t want the creditor to mistakenly believe you’re unwilling to pay them. If a creditor knows the details about your situation, they may be willing to work with you to reschedule payments.