10 ways to prevent debit card fraud

You can’t beat a debit card for convenience, but unless you take steps to protect yourself, you could be liable – and for more than your bank balance.

When it comes to banking and shopping convenience, Canadians love their debit cards. According to Industry Canada, debit cards are used millions of times each day across the country at banking machines and point of sale terminals.

And while the vast majority of transactions are completed without any problems, debit card fraud is a growing problem. In fact, some reports estimate that it is more than double the rate of credit card fraud.

10 ways to avoid debit card fraud
1. Protect your debit card and personal identification number (PIN). Never share your PIN number with anyone, including financial institutions, law enforcement agencies, friends and family members. Memorize your PIN number – and do not write in on or near your debit card. If you suspect someone has discovered your PIN number, change it immediately.

2. When selecting a PIN, don’t use obvious information. You could be liable if you use your name, address, telephone number, date of birth or social insurance number.

3. Try to use terminals you are familiar with. If possible, use terminals inside banks rather than independent terminals.

4. When using an ATM be aware of your surroundings. Look around before you begin your transaction. If you notice any suspicious activity, cancel your transaction and look for another ATM. When making a transaction from your car, make sure the car doors are locked.

5. After hours: if you must use an ATM after hours, be sure it is well lighted. Try to use one that is not isolated and is frequented by other users.

6. Protect your privacy. Use your body as a shield from “shoulder surfers” as you conduct your transaction.

7. Never walk away from the ATM with cash in hand. If you want to count your money, do so at the terminal. Take your time putting your money away – and be sure to collect your card and receipt.

8. Report lost or stolen cards as soon as you notice they are missing.

9. Check your receipts against your monthly statements.

10. Tear up your receipts as soon as you no longer need them.

How does fraud occur?
Here are some common methods used to steal or duplicate cards and obtain the PIN:

Easily identified PINs. Your purse or wallet is stolen and the thief finds your PIN written down somewhere close to your card, or, successfully tries a commonly used PIN, such as your birth date, based on information found in your wallet.

Surf and Pick Pocket. A thief watches as you enter the PIN and subsequently distracts you and steals your debit card.

Card Jam. Various devices are used to jam your card in the bank machine. After your card becomes jammed, a helpful stranger suggests that you try to input your PIN a few times, but the card remains stuck. After you leave, they remove your card and have your PIN.