According to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) data, reports of various types of fraud including debit card, electronic funds transfer, and ACH increased significantly last year — seeing a 32% rise over 2019. If you have fallen victim to debit card fraud, it can be disheartening to discover unauthorized charges on your account. Worse yet, it can be difficult to resolve credit card fraud. Thankfully, there are several ways you can fight debit card fraud and keep your financial wellness in check.
What is Debit Card Fraud?
Before understanding the best ways to fight debit card fraud, it is important to understand exactly what it is. Debit card fraud can be the result when an unauthorized person gets access to your debit card number or debit PIN and uses that data to make unauthorized withdrawals from your account or purchases.
There are several ways that unauthorized persons may gain access to this information:
- Skimming devices that are installed by bad actors at a gas station fuel pump or ATM skim your debit card information, which the fraudster then uses to make withdrawals from your account.
- Someone finds old statements in your garbage, lifts your account number, and uses the information to make fraudulent purchases
- Your purse is stolen and the thief uses the debit card to rack up thousands of dollars in bad charges.
- One of your financial institutions experiences a data breach and your debit card information is sold on the dark web to fraudsters
There are many different ways that bad actors can get a hold of your debit card information. Next, we’ll show you the best ways to fight debit card fraud.
1. Know What to Look Out For
One of the best ways to fight debit card fraud is to know what to keep an eye out for. As illustrated above, there are several different ways that fraudsters perpetrate debit card fraud. Understanding how this happens empowers you to take measures that protect your personal information from getting into the wrong hands. Keep an eye out for the following precursors to debit card fraud:
Card theft: Card theft happens when a thief snatches your debit (or credit) card from your possession. It may happen at a restaurant, out in public, or simply as a result of the theft of a larger item (like your purse or backpack). Another way card theft can occur is when someone steals mail that contains a newly issued debit card. As soon as you notice that your debit card is missing, it’s important to contact the issuer as soon as possible to prevent fraudulent charges from accumulating.
Account takeover: Account takeover occurs when a fraudster contacts your card issuer and poses as you using your personal information. They may be able to access passwords, PINs, and other critical information that enables them to take control of your account and lock you out. For those who do not use or check their accounts often, this type of fraud may go unnoticed for a while, which means it could take longer to sort out with the card issuer.
Card cloning: Some criminals leverage skimmers, or devices that can be positioned over card readers at point of sale terminals. These devices allow criminals to skim your card number when a card is swiped. A duplicate card can then be created to use for fraudulent purchases. As more and more EMV cards are issued, the use of chips makes it more difficult to clone cards.
Card-not-present theft: In the era of online shopping, fraud can occur even without a physical debit card. With card-not-present fraud, a criminal gains access to your name, account number, and other debit card information and uses that information to make fraudulent purchases online. This can happen due to data breaches at retailers where you’ve shopped in the past. Once that information is breached, criminals will often sell your information to other bad actors who then use it to make fraudulent purchases.
The best offense is a good defense when it comes to fighting debit card fraud. Monitoring your debit card accounts and statements can help you catch suspicious activity quickly and prevent further financial losses. Start by keeping your statements in a safe place. If you receive paper statements, either shred them after you’ve reviewed them or keep them stored in a secure location. A safe or locked desk drawer should do the trick.
It’s also important to review your statements each month. Card issuers typically offer transaction logs online that enable you to review your purchases. Scanning through allows you to spot suspicious transactions or unusual activity. If you come across questionable charges or activity, contact your debit card issuer right away.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Being proactive in protecting your debit cards goes a long way in fighting debit card fraud. Since we live in a digital age, many people do not keep close tabs on their physical cards as many transactions occur online. Make sure you know where your physical debit cards are at all times and reach out to the issuer immediately if you determine that they are missing or stolen.
In addition to the physical debit card, it’s also important to keep track of where you store sensitive personal information. It’s good practice to avoid storing debit card numbers or PINs on devices or sending that information via email. If a thief or a hacker gains access to your devices or email account, they can use that information to drain your accounts.
Be careful where you enter sensitive debit card information online. Always verify that you’re shopping on a real website before entering card data. One way to do this is to verify the site has “https” (the “s” means secure) before the website name in the address bar. Online scammers may set up fraudulent online storefronts in the hopes that you will unknowingly enter your debit card information, which they can then use to make fraudulent purchases.
In a similar vein, be careful when responding to suspicious emails or text messages. Fraudsters will often pose as your bank or a retailer in an email or text and ask you to click on a link to enter debit card information. These are “phishing” scams, and the sole purpose is to elicit sensitive data from the receiver.
Report Fraud to Law Enforcement
In a worst-case scenario where you’re the victim of debit card fraud, consider reporting the crime to a law enforcement agency. You can start at the Federal Trade Commission’s website for identity theft: IdentityTheft.gov. This enables you to file a report that law enforcement agencies can use in investigations. Your creditors may also advise you to file a report with local law enforcement.
Fraudsters are getting smarter and more sophisticated, but having the right mindset and preparation can go a long way in keeping you safe from debit card fraud. Consider the tips above and always remember to use caution when entering personal information online.