To debit or to credit, that is the question.
Philosophies on this topic vary: Some folks believe in using (and paying off monthly) credit cards for their benefits, air-miles-per-dollar-spent, warranty benefits, or fraud protection. Others are staying away from the credit temptation and spend only what they have by using debit cards.
While the cards look virtually identical and can be used interchangeably in most places, credit cards offer an invaluable benefit: If you discover a fraudulent charge on your credit card, you have the option to contest the charge. Any payment first comes from the credit institution’s funds and at least doesn’t directly affect your personal bank account.
Not so the debit card. With it, you are on your own in case of a fraudulent charge. The thief who copied your card and unlocked your PIN has just gained free access to your bank account, and can plunder it to heart’s content. There is no challenging the charge or deferring the bill. You best hope is damage control by catching the fraud early.
That’s why credit cards tend to be your safest option to avoid fraud in most places.
But if you’re still convinced about using a debit card, at least avoid these 4 places that tend to be hotspots for debit card fraud:
1. Online purchases
Do not, do not, do not use your debit card for online purchases. Online shopping leaves you at risk in too many places: Whether it’s via malware on your own home computer, in a middleman attack where a crook steals your information via the network, or at the endpoint, where data may be compromised via the merchant (or, possibly, the ‘safe’ merchant’s criminal employees); using your debit card for online purchases leaves you very vulnerable.
Protect your bank account and designate a credit card for online purchases.
Restaurants are a popular place for skimming debit card info. Does your favorite takeout conveniently have your info on file? Do you think your data is as safe with them as it should be?
Do you ever think about the logistics of paying for your meal with your card, which involves your card being swiftly whisked away to a private corner for a short while?
Restaurants offer countless opportunities to swipe, skim and steal debit card information. Be aware and use cash or credit instead.
3. Gas Stations
Crooks love a good, fully automated gas station. It’s open, it’s accessible, and it’s minimally supervised. All it takes is the installation of a skimmer to capture data, a camera, a laptop and an antenna. Presto. Instant access to a shopping spree on you.
Avoid using your debit card and use cash or credit to pay at the pump.
Yes, the outdoor ATM, even if it’s on the side of your own bank’s building, is not as safe as it seems to be. It’s easy for thieves to place a card reader above the actual ATM slot to capture your card’s data, add a camera to capture your PIN, and surveil your transaction while you are taking out cash.
Outdoor ATMs are especially vulnerable, as they are the most accessible to the public. If you need to use an ATM, protect yourself by using machines that are inside bank foyers, in well-lit or highly trafficked areas, and that don’t show signs of damage or scratches.
If you find yourself being a victim of identity theft, don’t despair. Some homeowner’s insurance policies offer identity theft protection options as part of their coverage package. Ask your insurance agent or give us a call at 425.379.9200 for more information.
About McClain Insurance Services:
McClain Insurance Services is an independent insurance agency located in Everett, WA. The agency represents a select group of regional and national insurance companies, including PEMCO, Safeco, Travelers and Progressive.
Since 1977, McClain Insurance Services has offered quality insurance options to customers in Snohomish County and Washington state. Our convenient full-service website and our team of licensed, professional brokers make insurance shopping personal, easy, quick and hassle-free.
Independent agents work with you to customize an insurance plan that meets your needs and fits your budget. They can help with all your personal insurance needs: Auto, Home, Renters, Life, Umbrella, Earthquake, Flood, Boat, Motorcycle and RV Insurance.
McClain Insurance Services is a Trusted Choice agency and a member of the Independent Agents Association of America, the Economic Alliance of Snohomish County, and the BBB. They are also Charter Members of NSACE – National Society of Agents for Consumer Education.