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Protecting Your Debit Card Now

Pekka Jaakkola, ThinkStock

The technology of thieves is growing everyday. They have smarter and smarter devices and ways to steal your bank information. Protect your debit card now before they get to it. 

I recently had the heart stopping, gut wrenching experience of having my debit card number stolen. It is an experience I would not wish upon my enemy.

I was trying to pay for a large medical bill when my debit card was declined. I didn’t understand because I had the money in my account. The nurse explained the decline might have been because of the amount and that I should call the bank to get the transaction approved. A wash of relief came over me. It is always an awkward situation to have your card declined in public. But, I had a solution and I called the 1-800 number with confidence that I would soon have my payment made and be able to leave the doctor’s office. Nope.

When I got a hold of someone there at the bank, I received the bad news I would never have expected I would ever hear. My account had been hacked. A woman on a completely different continent had tried to withdraw more than $1,000 from my account.

Do not be confused, I very rarely have close to that amount of money in my account. I am just a college student, keep in mind.

This large amount would have made a huge impact on my life if it had successfully disappeared. Luckily, the bank was smart enough to recognize there was no way that I used my bank card here in Tyler, Texas and in less than five hours somehow travelled across the ocean. They were able to stop the charge before this woman received any of my money.

The fright was deep set. How could this happen to me? Yes, she didn’t get my money, but she could have. How did this happen? What would I do to better protect myself. This fear continues now, I have a new debit card and I want to make sure to keep it protected. I started asking the bank employees and friends and family for tips of debit card safety.

Everyone had a story. The woman that worked at the bank had had her card compromised because she bought something online. A friend had his account hacked by someone that simply stood behind him in line at a store with a card reading device. And, lets not forget the Target credit card thefts.  It seemed that what I thought rarely happened was more like a coming of age experience. Everyone eventually had their card compromised, it was another thing to learn how to handle as an adult.

I don’t like that. I think dealing with the fright and the impact of having your debit card information stolen should be a less occurring part of society. I won’t get started on a, “Can’t we all just get along?” soap box. Instead, lets talk about how we can protect ourselves.

1. Watch Where You Swipe

There are new gadgets that thieves can place inside a store’s card readers. These gadgets allow the store to read your card making it seem as if everything is going as normal. While the store is reading your card, the thief is too. To protect yourself from this and many other attempts to steal your card information at the card swiper, take some steps.

Go inside to pay for gas. Paying at the pump leaves you to risk. They could have a camera or someone watching to get your pin number and card number which leaves your bank account wide open to the thief.

Use your credit card. Using a credit card will lower your risk of damage financially. It is easy. Keep your money safe in your bank account. Make a budget for how much you will need to spend. Pay for bills and buy things with your credit card. At the end of the month, pay your credit card off with your money. This way, if someone steals your credit card number, they don’t get access to your bank account or real money.

Use your pin. When you charge things on your debit card as a credit card, you aren’t saving yourself anything. Use your debit card with its pin every time you use it. This lets your bank know it is you spending the money.

2. Stay Offline

It is not an easy thing to say in this internet age, but paying for things with your debit card online makes you a big target to card thieves.

I know it is easy to save all of your information into all your favorite websites and have reoccurring payments, these actions leave you vulnerable. Every time you put in your bank info or debit card numbers, you are sending that information out for any hacker to see. Believe me, hackers are not fictional characters made up for movie plots. They are everywhere these days.

3. Cover Your Card

Remember that nifty little gadget I talked about that read your card while the store read it? There are more inventions like that on the market than you know.

Log out of your account. If you log onto your bank account or pay for things on your debit card from your phone, you are fair game to a tech savvy thief. Logging out of your accounts and fully quitting your bank app will greatly help you. There are thieves out there that can simply pull up next to you at a red light and hack into your phone to pull your personal information out.

Wrap your card up. There are thieves that own equipment that can read your card information straight from your wallet. Yes, you can stand in line with one of these thieves behind you with your card in your wallet, in your pocket and they can steal your banking info. These card reading devices are hard to trace and you probably won’t realize they have your information until it is too late. There are card protecting sleeves that can help you with this. 

With these and many other threats to your account, it is important that you be safe with your debit cards. If you take just these few precautions, you might save yourself a world of grief.

 

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