There are many ways you can become a victim of debit card fraud, but it’s a lot easier online. While it helps to be aware of common scams, you can’t be on top of everything at all times. Despite your best efforts, being a victim of fraud is still a possibility. If you can’t use a credit card in place of your debit card when shopping online, check with your bank to see if disposable/virtual credit cards are available to you. If you’re not familiar, these are basically single-use numbers, often with set limits, that expire after use. While these virtual, disposable numbers may work the same as your debit card and withdraw money immediately, you don’t have to worry about someone else finding that number, using it, and draining your bank account.
When you’re out making purchases in the real world, there are still a number of risks. For example, many businesses—particularly restaurants—still print credit and debit card receipts with your entire number on them. This is particularly bad because your number is exposed to anyone who sees that receipt. Check your receipts when you make purchases to ensure the full number is not included. If it is, use the pen you’re signing with to black out all but the first or last four numbers of your card.
In the event your card is lost or stolen, you need to be prepared to handle the situation as quickly as possible (we’ll discuss why shortly). Be prepared to call your bank and the credit processor (VISA, Mastercard, AMEX, Discover, etc.). It’s best if you compile the necessary information, such as numbers you’ll need to call and information you’ll need to provide. Once you do, print it out and keep it somewhere handy or save it in an application like Evernote or Simplenote so you have it easily available on your smartphone or computer. If you’re still using a regular cellphone, most have a notes feature where you can store small amounts of text, so it may help to keep the information there as well. If not, you can always store important numbers in your phone’s address book, assigning the business name as the first name and something like CARDFRAUD for the surname. This will keep the numbers together and easily accessible in case of a problem. Generally the numbers you’ll need will be on the back of your card, but to help you out here are guides for VISA, MasterCard, and American Express.
Fraud Protection Dissolves with Time
If a fraudulent charge of any kind may have been made to your debit card, you’re generally pretty well protected. While banks only have to cover resulting damages past $500 on your credit card, many offer better protection ($50, and sometimes less) as an incentive. Be sure to check with your bank to know how protected you really are in the event someone steals and uses your debit card. If debit card fraud could cost you quite a bit, it may be time to find a new bank.
Even if you are well-protected by your bank, they’ll only help you out for so long. Good protection may be contingent on your reporting possible fraud within 48 hours, and your bank is not required to help you at all 60 days after receiving your monthly statement. Again, be sure to call and find out your bank’s specific policies, but the important takeaway is this: check the charges on your account regularly and call your bank if something is unfamiliar. It may not be fraud and it may just be a charge you’d forgotten about, but you’re protecting yourself simply by calling to ask about it. Often times your bank can help you get more information on the charge and figure out what it is. You’re better safe than sorry in this situation, since all you’re doing is spending a few extra minutes on the phone. If waiting on hold sounds horribly tedious, consider using a tool like LucyPhone to avoid waiting on hold altogether.
Even if it isn’t necessarily fraud, it’s always worth double-checking your statement because sometimes you can get overcharged by small amounts. Sometimes tips on restaurant bills get misread (or intentionally increased), companies accidentally process certain transactions twice, or the cashier forgot to close out the previous transaction and it got added to your bill by accident. You should get into the habit of checking your statements regularly to help avoid these more common issues as well.