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Debit Card Danger Zones
Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Would you knowingly allow a thief to have direct access to your checking account? Most likely the answer is a resounding no! Unfortunately, you may be doing just that by regularly using your debit card for purchases at risky locations.

Although debit cards may look identical to credit cards, there is one key difference….debit cards draw money directly from your checking account rather than from an intermediary such as a credit card company. You can be sure if a criminal gains access to the “cash” in your account, the balance in your bottom line will be broke.

To help keep criminals out of your bank account, the Lee County Sheriff's Office wants you to keep the following tips in mind:

• Outdoor ATMs present a perfect opportunity for thieves to skim users’ debit cards. Skimming devices can be placed over the real card slots allowing the criminal to capture the information on the card’s magnetic strip. Tip: Use an ATM located inside a retail outlet, banking institution or other high-trafficked, well-lit place. Check for ATM components that look beat-up or askew.

• Gas stations are another danger zone for debit card use. These pay-at-the-pump terminals have many of the characteristics card fraudsters love because it is difficult to maintain continual supervision over the pumps, which allows an opportunity for a thief to place a skimmer device inside. Tip: With the high potential for debit card fraud while filling up, it might make sense to use an alternative such as cash or credit cards.

 • Consumers should never use their debit card to buy products online. The web can be a risky place for shoppers because it is susceptible at so many points. Unfortunately, data can be compromised by malware or from the merchant’s database, leaving buyers bank accounts vulnerable to intrusion. Tip: Use only a credit card for internet purchases, even if using a “trusted” website.

• Anytime your debit card leaves your hands, fraud is possible. Restaurants, delivery orders placed over the phone and merchants who do not take the necessary steps to safeguard your payment information can be problematic for consumers. Tip: Using credit or cash is less risky than using a debit card, and keeps your financial information out of the hands of unscrupulous thieves.

To arrange to have someone come out to your community to talk about this or another safety or security topic please contact the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, Community Relations Section at (239) 477-1400.