When you make a purchase with a debit or credit card, are you worried about fraud? It’s hard not to be these days given the frequency of reports about data breaches and identity theft. On top of it all, there are continual warnings about scammers “phishing” for credit card numbers using bogus emails and websites.
Given the focus on credit cards, you might be surprised to learn that consumer experts are equally concerned with fraud involving your “other plastic,” your debit/ATM card.
A quick look at debit card fraud statistics:
- In 2016, FICO, the credit rating company, reported a 70% increase in fraud.
- In 2017, the increase slowed to 10%, as more banks and credit unions equipped their cards with EMV security chips.
Problem solved? Hardly. Consumer experts say that fraud is still on the upswing and scammers are finding ways to outwit the chip. How can you protect yourself?
Beware of Skimmers
A “skimmer” is a small device with tiny cameras that are secretly attached to ATMs or retail terminals, and illegally records every debit card transaction. To protect yourself, watch for anything unusual near the card entry slot when you use retail terminals or ATMs. Sophisticated scammers often place skimmers inside terminals, where they can’t be seen. If your card doesn’t enter the slot smoothly, that can be a warning sign. First Federal Bank diligently monitors your account activity for fraud and uses the latest technology to better serve you. If we suspect fraud on your credit card or business credit card, we will alert you in a timely matter using our SecurLock service.
See the Light
It’s best to only use ATMs that are inside of or adjacent to the bank. They tend to have better security than machines at convenience stores, restaurants and other places. Otherwise, choose ATMs in well-lighted areas. “Bad guys” often avoid locations where they might get caught installing a skimmer.
The “well-lighted” rule goes for other places, such as gas stations. If you’re paying with a debit card, use a pump that’s close to the building. Better yet, walk the card inside and pay at the counter.
And, avoid using debit cards at establishments with high employee turnover, such as restaurants and low-end retailers. These types of places simply don’t do the type of background checks that might detect dishonest applicants.
Monitor Your Account
One silver lining with debit card fraud -- it’s fairly easy to spot. Consumer advocates suggest you take these steps:
- Use online banking. Check your balance and recent transactions daily, looking for purchases or withdrawals you didn’t make. Our online and mobile banking makes it easy to check when you are at home or on-the-go. Scammers often make withdrawals on an account over and over until the debit/ATM card is canceled.
- Sign up for alerts. At First Federal Bank, we’re always on the lookout for unusual activity on your account. We’ll contact you by email or text if we see anything that looks suspicious.
- Switch to e-Statements. If you miss something while monitoring online banking, you might see it while viewing your monthly electronic statement. Signing up for e-Statements also eliminates the possibility of having account information stolen from your postal mailbox.
- Keep several accounts. Checking accounts are great places to keep money for everyday expenses. But consider moving extra cash into savings accounts, money market accounts or certificates of deposits. Doing so could limit the financial damage should you become a victim of fraud. Plus, you’ll earn interest on your deposits.
Report Problems Quickly
Visa, Mastercard and other credit card companies have their own fraud response programs. They can spot problems when a card is used improperly, or when questionable charges first appear on your bill. That allows you to address the situation before paying for items and services you didn’t authorize.
Banks and credit unions usually offer their own debit card fraud protection. If you notice problems with your account, contact your financial institution immediately. If you are a First Federal Bank customer, we have a list of action steps to take as soon as you discover fraud. Scammers often make withdrawals on an account over and over until the debit/ATM card is canceled.
There are also federal debit card fraud laws to protect you. If you report unauthorized card use within two days, your losses are limited to $50. But you risk losing up to $500 if you wait up to 60 days to make a report. Longer than that? You could permanently lose everything taken from your account.
First Federal Bank shares your concerns about debit card fraud. Please contact us with any questions or to report problems with your account. You can reach us at 877-367-8178 or visit one of our branches.