Top 5 Ways to Protect Yourself from Debit Card Fraud

card_blogAs someone whose debit card and checking account have been compromised twice in the past year, I can tell you first-hand how much of a pain it can be.

When you rely heavily on the easy account access of a debit card, the minor inconvenience of having to physically go into a bank as your new card is being delivered becomes a major hassle. Not only that, but there’s always the worry that your bank won’t refund the fraudulent charges.

Hopefully, debit card fraud will never happen to you and, with these 5 steps, you’ll take every precaution and safeguard you can to avoid the most common forms of fraud.

1. Avoid Non-Bank ATMs

If at all possible, try and keep your debit transactions with trusted vendors, especially your own bank’s ATMs. Of course, this proposition isn’t always reasonable if you’re in an area that doesn’t have your bank. But as a general rule, if you can, do it. Credit card skimming (using fake swipe machines to steal your card information) has been on the rise in the past few years. By avoiding potentially sketchy machines, you lower your risk of fraud.

2. Use the Internet to Your Advantage

While the Internet has added a level of risk to banking, it has also brought in a number of safeguards to nip any fraud in the bud. First things first: go paperless. Getting rid of physical statements sent to your home eliminates the risk that an identity thief can get your information by rummaging through your trash.

Next, set up account alerts. Talk to your bank and see if they offer email or text alerts when your account goes below a certain amount, or if charges above a certain amount are conducted. Many banks offer some form of alert, but by customizing them to your unique account you make catching fraudulent activity that much more likely.

3. Be Smart Online

As #2 showed us, online banking can be a big help for preventing debit scams, but the Internet can’t do it all; you need to take some responsibility for your actions online. First, make sure that you have some sort of antivirus or firewall on your computer. It’s a small step that could have massive security implications. For the best free antivirus programs, click here.

Next, only use trusted networks. Don’t check your account information or transfer money over Starbucks’ WiFi. Hackers can easily tap into unreliable networks to poach your data.

Finally, be wary of phishing scams (in which scammers offer false prompts in order to get you to type in your account information). Only enter your account information if you’re sure it’s a secure line to your bank. As an aside, phishing scams can also occur over the phone. If you get a phone call from your “bank” asking you to provide account information, don’t do it. Hang up and call the number on the back of your card.

4. Spread the Wealth

Try to avoid keeping all of your money in one place. Keep your money dispersed over checking and savings or money market accounts if you can. While this won’t necessarily prevent theft, if your checking account gets drained, at least you’ll have some backup money to keep afloat until fraudulent charges are cleared.

Also, avoid a joint debit/credit card for the same reason. If one of your accounts is compromised, it’s better that that account information is isolated, as opposed to a thief crippling your finances in one fell swoop.

5. Pay Attention

This seems like a no-brainer, but one of the best assets you have is your own knowledge of your card and your account. Never lose sight of your card. Even if you’re unsure where it is for an evening (you leave it at a friend’s house, et al) take the necessary precautions and contact your bank to ensure no unauthorized activity has taken place.

In addition, keep a close eye on your banking statements. While banks do their best to keep abreast of your activity, you have a responsibility to know what’s happening with your finances. If $200 is missing, your bank doesn’t notice it, and you don’t say anything, there is a chance that money could never be recovered.

Of course, some people will opt to keep their money buried in their yard or balled up in their sock drawer. If you’re one of those “careful” folks, BrickHouse offers a wide array of hidden cameras, surveillance systems, and safes to keep your non-FDIC-insured finances safe from crooks.

About the author  ⁄ Erik Helin

Erik is BrickHouse Security's copy chief. Hailing from the Midwest (Wisconsin), Erik moved to NYC in 2010, securing a job at BrickHouse shortly thereafter. Outside of work he writes about music, does freelance advertising work, and wastes his life on the internet. Aside from no-brainers like cheese and beer, Erik enjoys music, travel, TV, his cat, and Brooklyn.