Debit cards are also susceptible to theft, and credit card fraud is now a constant and pervasive threat. In 2020, 66,090 instances of credit card fraud were reported to the Federal Trade Commission.
Debit (and credit) card information has been stolen from ATMs for years; part of the reason why chip cards were invented was to reduce this risk. But as the credit card industry develops, thieves adjust, and according to Consumer Reports, they now have “shimmers” that can read chip-based cards.
Due to the high volume of traffic and frequent lack of supervision at the pumps, gas stations are a haven for credit card thieves. Thieves therefore have plenty of opportunity to install PIN number-capturing devices like skimmers and sometimes even very small cameras. The Secret Service has become involved because the issue is so serious. During a 2018 crackdown, the agency discovered nearly 200 skimmers at 400 gas stations.
While there are many reliable mobile vendors working to make a decent living, there are also some thieves who pretend to be these vendors. Attendees at festivals, fairs, concerts, and other events occasionally are unsure of whether a vendor is legitimate or employs a card skimmer. Your card may become vulnerable as a result.
While some restaurants now swipe your card in plain sight, many still do so behind the scenes where you can’t see it. If a business or particular server is dishonest, they may swipe your card through a skimmer and charge more than just your meal.
Because they have more money to spend on security, large chain retail stores may appear to be safer locations to use a credit card. However, because so many people swipe cards at stores, some thieves have been able to circumvent the security measures in place. Data breaches involving cards have occurred at Target, TJX (which runs T.J. Maxx and Marshall’s), and other companies.
Your credit card information may be exposed during an online transaction at various points. Malware on your device, a third party who intercepts the transmission, or a data breach at the retailer you purchase from are all potential sources of the information theft.
Anywhere Information is Stored
After you swipe your card, the risk of credit card theft continues. Any company that keeps a record of your credit card number is susceptible to a data breach in which a hacker gains access to the data. Large and small sellers in a variety of industries have been impacted by these attacks.
How to Protect Your Credit Card
You probably can’t completely eliminate the risk of credit and debit card theft because there are so many possible ways your credit card information could be compromised. However, there are precautions you can take to better safeguard your card information.
Utilize ATMs with High Visibility
While any ATM machine may have a skimmer installed, poorly monitored machines are more likely to have been tampered with. Look for ATMs the same way you would to try to lessen the possibility of a mugging in order to lessen the risk posed by ATM skimmers. Go to a heavily used, highly visible machine that is ideally located in a safe area (like a bank), if at all possible.
Check Readers at Gas Stations
When using a credit card at a gas station, quickly inspect the reader to see if it appears to have been tampered with. Pay inside if there are any strange stickers, if the inspection seal says “void,” or if there are any loose parts because doing so reduces your risk of having your credit card stolen.
Look at the nearby readers.
Look at the nearby credit card readers to see if they resemble the one you are using if you are in a location where there are other, identical readers. If the readers on two otherwise identical ATMs or fuel pumps differ noticeably, one of them may be equipped with a skimming device. Find another location to use your card.
Move the reader around.
Give the reader a little tug before you swipe your card at an unmonitored location, such as an ATM or gas station. Don’t use your card there if anything seems shaky. Something could have been loosened by a thief to allow the installation of a camera or skimmer.
Veterinarian mobile vendors
Before you give a mobile vendor your credit or debit card, check to make sure they at least operate a legitimate business. Ask them about their location, look up images of their facility, and, if you like, look them up online. This will at least guarantee that you’re paying a legitimate company and not a phoney local or mobile vendor.
Bring cash with you.
You may occasionally encounter potentially dangerous situations, such as a restaurant that accepts credit cards in the back or a fuel pump that seems off. Keep some cash on hand so you can make purchases whenever using a credit card seems risky.
Don’t Save Card Information
Avoid storing credit card information on retailer websites to reduce the risk that potential data breaches pose. Comparatively speaking, entering your card number each time you make a purchase is a minor inconvenience compared to dealing with a stolen card.
Use a credit card rather than a debit card.
When you do need to use plastic, try to avoid using a debit card as much as you can. Debit cards are protected by the Electronic Fund Transfer Act, while credit cards are protected by The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) (EFTA). The EFTA can hold you accountable for up to $500 of fraudulent charges (and occasionally more), whereas the FCBA caps your potential liability at $50 in some circumstances.
What to Do If Your Credit Card Is Skipped
Your credit and debit card information may still be stolen, despite the best security measures. If it does, take these actions to solve the issue.
Step 1: Immediately inform your card issuer.
Notify the bank or other organisation that issued your card as soon as you believe that your credit or debit card information may have been stolen. The Federal Trade Commission states that if you report the incident before false charges are filed, you are not responsible. The amount you’re liable for depends on how quickly you notify your card issuer if you report the alleged theft after fraudulent charges have been made. If you suspect that the data on a card has been stolen, you can call the majority of issuers’ 24-hour hotlines right away.
When a debit card is compromised, reporting must be done immediately. The EFTA caps your liability at $50 if you report a stolen debit card within two business days of learning of the theft or incident. Your maximum liability for the incident is $500 if you notify your card issuer more than two business days following the incident but within 60 calendar days. Your liability may exceed $500 if you wait 60 or more calendar days. Of course, even when using a debit card, your liability should be zero if you can report the incident before any fraudulent charges are made.
Step 2: Submit a Written Statement to the Card Issuer
You should follow up on your initial notification by sending your card issuer a written statement. If there is ever any doubt about how you handled the incident, this will merely serve as proof that you did, in fact, contact the issuer. Send the letter certified mail, return receipt requested, and keep a copy for your records to serve as proof of delivery.
Step 3: Obtain a New Card and Create a New PIN
Once they receive your notification, your card’s issuer will probably immediately disable the compromised card and mail you a replacement. The issuer and your circumstances will determine how long this takes. Wait until you get your new card before setting a new, distinct PIN for it. Because thieves occasionally attempt to reuse data they have previously collected, you should make sure your new PIN is unique. Any attempts to re-use your old number won’t be successful if you use the same PIN.
Step 4: Keep an eye on your account statements
Sometimes thieves will use a card right away after getting its details, but other times they will hold off. Carefully and frequently check your account statements for unauthorised charges to ensure you catch all fraudulent charges. Of course, you ought to be doing this already in the event that fraudsters steal your card information without your knowledge.
Step 5: Report Unauthorized Charges
Inform your card issuer right away if you discover any unauthorised charges. The charges may be related to a problem you reported or another time your credit or debit card was misused without your knowledge. These will probably be handled in accordance with the policy for your account and any relevant federal or state law.