Protecting Yourself Against Debit Card Fraud

When you make a purchase with a debit or credit card, are you worried about being ripped off? It’s hard not to be these days, given the frequency of reports about data breaches and identity theft. There are also continual warnings about scammers “phishing” for credit card numbers using bogus emails and websites.

Given the focus on credit card fraud, 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 debit card 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 fraud is still on the upswing and scammers are finding ways to outwit the chip. So what should you do? At Needham Bank, we’ll equip you with the knowledge you need to continue using your debit card safely. After all, debit cards provide convenient buying power and access to cash and other services at thousands of ATMs around the world.

Consider three ideas: 

  1. Take precautions when using your card. 
  2. Monitor your checking account for unauthorized transactions NB Online & Mobile Banking. 
  3. Know what to do should you have a problem.

Beware of skimmers at unknown ATMs

How can someone use your debit card without physically having the card? Phishers pursue debit card information online. Dishonest employees can also eyeball your card and PIN when you make a retail purchase, and checkout terminals at retail stores can be hacked.

And then there are “skimmers.” Small devices with tiny cameras can be secretly attached to ATMs or retail terminals and illegally record every debit card transaction. Watch out for anything unusual near the card entry slot when using retail terminals or ATMs. Of course, sophisticated scammers often place skimmers inside terminals, where they can’t be seen. But if your card doesn’t enter the slot smoothly, that can be a warning sign. Needham Bank takes fraud very seriously and has resources available around the clock to help protect your account if you believe it has been compromised.

See the light

It’s safest to use only ATMs that are inside or adjacent to banks. They tend to have better security than machines at convenience stores, restaurants and other places. Otherwise, choose ATMs in well-lighted areas. Fraudsters often avoid locations where they might get caught installing a skimmer. 

The “well-lighted” rule applies to other places as well, including 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 in establishments with high employee turnover, such as restaurants and low-end retailers. Many of these businesses 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 taking these steps to monitor your account and spot any suspicious activity early on:

  • Use online banking: Check your balance and recent transactions daily, looking for purchases or withdrawals you didn’t make. You can access your balance in real time using NB Online & Mobile Banking.
  • Sign up for alerts: At Needham Bank, we’re always on the lookout for unusual activity in 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 through your online banking account 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 Markets or Certificates of Deposit. Doing so could limit the financial damage should you become a debit card fraud victim. 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 really buy or authorize.

At Needham Bank, our NB Debit Cards feature MasterCard’s Zero Liability Protection. This purchase protection provides customers with the peace of mind that they won’t be held responsible for unauthorized transactions. This extends to purchases made in the store, over the phone, online, via smartphone and ATM transactions.

If you notice problems with your account, contact Needham Bank immediately. Scammers often make withdrawals from 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. 

At Needham Bank, we share your concerns about debit card fraud. Please contact us with any questions or to report problems with your account. You can reach us at 1-781-444-2100 if your card is lost, stolen, or you suspect unauthorized use.