Fight Debit Card Fraud

Fraud continues to escalate in every area of our lives — including an increase in debit card scams. Unfortunately, this type of fraud can be more challenging than other types of financial theft because scammers can withdraw money directly from your checking account. Thieves will also try to steal your debit card data in a variety of ways, including:

  • Hacking: Individuals can rob your information using keylogging software. (Keylogging software is a form of spyware. It uses a computer program to record every keystroke made by a computer user to gain fraudulent access to passwords and other confidential information.) Any data you enter, including your name, debit card account number, and PIN, can be at risk. To avoid hacking, install key encryption software, use two-step verification for sensitive data, install software updates, and keep your system software updated.
  • Phishing: Crooks may contact you via text or email asking for account information. The messages seem genuine on the surface. But if you click on an embedded link and ultimately share personal information, that data is transferred to the scammers. Data is then used to steal the victim’s identity and commit further crimes using this stolen identity. Protect your computer using security software, back up your data, protect your mobile phone by setting software to update automatically, and use multi-factor authentication.
  • Skimming: Skimmers, which attempt to scan your card’s information, can appear at ATMs, gas pumps, and retailer sites. If you accidentally run your card through a skimmer, your information can be captured by the scammers, who then use it to produce counterfeit cards. To avoid skimming, inspect any machine before using it, be cautious of any non-bank ATM, look for tampering, and always inspect the keypad.
  • Spying: Data (including your card or PIN information) can be captured visually by a camera placed near an ATM. Or someone may watch you conduct a transaction and view your private card or PIN information. Additionally, unscrupulous clerks can steal card information as well. The best way to prevent someone from visually stealing your data, be aware of strangers and shield your card information from curious eyes.

Debit Card Safety Tips

  • When shopping online with your debit card, look for https in the URL. The ‘s’ actually stands for secure and ensures the site is encrypted for your protection. Also, look for the padlock icon in the browser bar. Use multi-factor authentication. And if something seems suspicious, end the transaction. Note that using public Wi-Fi sites is problematic as well.
  • Avoid taking shortcuts with your card’s safety. For example, never store card information within your online shopping sites, even your favorite or well-known sites. This can leave your data vulnerable to thieves.
  • Take care when using your card. When shopping or dining out, be careful with your card. If making a purchase or paying for a tab, keep track of your card throughout the transaction.
  • Shield your card from fraudsters. When using a debit card or ATM and entering your PIN, block the transaction with your hand.
  • Monitor transactions. Use online or mobile banking to review your statements and transaction history regularly. Watch for unusual activity, duplicate charges, or unknown transactions. If something seems amiss, contact us immediately.
  • Enroll in alerts. These enable you to receive real-time notifications and stop fraud early. You can monitor balance levels, transactions, card usage, and more.
  • Stay on top of data breaches. If you receive information about a potential data breach, don’t ignore it. You should immediately change your PIN — or ask us to issue you a new debit card number to protect your data. Also, contact the major credit card bureaus, share your concerns, and request that a fraud alert be placed on your file.
  • Watch for card skimmers. Inspect card readers any time you’re paying with your debit card. Card readers that feel clunky, look dirty or damaged, or look tampered with (scratches, glue, or debris near the slot) should be avoided. Find another location to use.
  • Implement card controls. Our mobile app provides card controls to turn your card off and on, right from your phone! Additionally, if your card is lost or stolen, you can turn it off immediately, preventing the risk of fraudulent transactions. We also recommend enrolling in alerts to track usage and stop fraud before it becomes a problem.
  • Choose credit for your purchases. If you have the choice to choose credit versus debit, choose credit. This gives you added protection with our Visa® Zero Liability on purchases. Also, shop securely with Visa® Checkout.


Sadly, fraud can happen to anyone, anywhere. If your card has been compromised, contact us immediately. When unauthorized charges occur, we also recommend that you file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and contact all three credit bureaus, and request a fraud alert be placed on your account.

Author Roberta Pescow, NerdWallet © Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc.