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How to protect your debit card from "skimming" scams

Posted Tuesday, February 24, 2009

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As economic conditions have worsened, there’s a noticeable increase in all types of card fraud. People who create counterfeit ATM or debit cards by stealing your PIN and other account data can simply pull cold cash from your bank account. Using a technique known as skimming, they set up equipment that captures magnetic stripe and keypad information when you put in your PIN at ATM machines, gas pumps, restaurants, and retailers.

The editors of Consumer Reports Money Adviser offer three tips on how you can protect yourself:

  • Don’t type in your PIN at the pump. Gas pumps are notorious for skimming because they’re produced by only a couple of different manufacturers, and if someone gets the key to one from a disgruntled employee, he can insert a skimming device inside the pump where it can’t be seen. Use a credit card when you fill your tank. If you must use a debit card, choose the screen prompt that identifies it as a credit card so you don’t have to type in your PIN.
  • Stick with ATMs located at banks. Use machines at banks rather than in convenience stores, airports, or any isolated locations. A thief has to be able to attach and retrieve a skimming device to see the data gathered, and that’s more likely to happen in non-bank settings where there’s less traffic and no surveillance cameras.
  • Closely monitor your bank accounts. Check them regularly—preferably online. Federal law limits your liability for fraudulent debit-card charges to $50, but only if you report the theft or loss of your card or PIN within two business days of discovering the problem.
Consumer Reports has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor appearing on this newspaper's web site.
 
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How to protect your debit card from "skimming" scams
As economic conditions have worsened, there’s a noticeable increase in all types of card fraud.
 
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