|Lots of people enjoy the convenience of using debit cards — 59% of Americans use them every day, according to Accenture research — and many of us get paid or receive government benefits through them. In short, they’ve become indispensible.
So it’s important to protect your debit card information from hackers, thieves and fraudsters. These no-goods can pose a serious threat, and safeguards may be less robust than you think.
What’s at Stake
Unlike credit cards, losses to fraud or identity theft can be unlimited — it all depends on how quickly you report a card lost, account information stolen or unauthorized transactions. No charges can be made against your account once you’ve reported it compromised. But you can lose your entire balance if the activity goes unreported long enough.
Under the federal Electronic Fund Transfer Act, your losses are capped at $50 only if you notify the issuer within two business days of noticing that your card or account information has been lost or stolen. After two business days, your exposure can rise to $500. If you wait more than 60 days to notify the issuer about a fraudulent transaction on an account statement, you could be liable for all losses after 60 days and before you notified the issuer.
Visa’s Zero Liability policy may protect you from any loss but only if the card company processes the transaction involved. Other limitations may apply as well.
Minimize Your Risk
Considering the potential stakes, it’s a good idea to take some steps to prevent crooks from getting their hands on your debit card information. Here are a few:
- Register your Visa card with Verified by Visa and create a password for the account to add a layer of extra security in online transactions. Keep records of account and security numbers, passcodes and expiration dates. Never give card information to strangers or unfamiliar organizations.
- Look closely at card-reading “swipe” devices — if something looks out of place, don’t use it. Thieves sometimes install “skimmers” on top of legitimate card readers to capture account data and use concealed cameras to learn associated passcodes.
- Don’t keep your personal identification number (PIN) for your debit card in your purse or wallet. Memorize it and keep it a secret.
- Check your account activity regularly — daily or at least weekly. Immediately reportany unrecognized activity to issuers like Lone Star Credit Union.
- Let the card issuer know in advance if you’re traveling to distant places or you plan to make an unusually large purchase, so that such transactions don’t trip red flags for account monitors.
Don’t let the convenience of a debit card become a nightmare. Take steps like those outlined above to protect your money.