When a debit card is not safe

Michael and Penny Ackerman

Most people feel that a debit card is a safe transaction device for making purchases. While a useful tool, the debit card can be the object of electronic theft in the most innocent of circumstances. Be aware that cyberthieves do have the ability to steal both the account number and PIN for a user merely by being in the vicinity of the card used. Electronic scanning devices allow the thief to obtain both numbers while being used by the card holder. Once obtained, the account number can be used to create a duplicate card that, along with the stolen PIN, can be used at ATM machines freely by the thief.

Consider limiting use of debit cards to only necessary transactions, and consider limiting the daily amount available on the card. Always watch your surroundings whenever using any card but especially the debit card. Remember, the very convenience we gain with the use of these cards allows the thief the same convenience. Be careful and check balances often. Notify the bank quickly of suspicious activity.

We recently had a cyberthief gain our numbers while purchasing gasoline at the pump. Fortunately we did check the account and were able to limit the damage. Because we had a small daily limit on the card and because we checked the account quickly, the thief managed only a few hundred dollars stolen. The bank was very good about replacing the money, canceling the card and issuing new ones. However, the inconvenience was considerable and certainly will be avoided in the future.

An ounce of prevention, in such cases, is absolutely worth the proverbial pound of cure.