Monday, October 6, 2008

Charge It!

In the past week, I've learned a whole lot about debit card fraud. Having someone steal your debit card number and PIN and withdraw $6600 from your checking account will put you through a crash course in debit card fraud.

The main thing I've learned... it is risky to use your debit card for purchases and for ATM withdrawals. Cash and credit cards are much safer. Yes, credit card numbers can be stolen, but most of us have more than one credit card. If our credit card is stolen, that account is closed and you can open a new one. Your money will be returned. But with a debit card, the money is removed directly from your checking account, which banks are not required to return to you. (thankfully our bank did return our money) But if a thief empties your bank account, that can result in bounced checks, freezing of your account, etc. which is much more inconvenient to deal with than one credit card. Try paying online bills and getting cash out of your account when it's frozen. Yeah, that was me last week.

How can thieves steal your debit card number and PIN without having your card? Easy. They can install a skimmer on an ATM that records all of that information. As soon as they have that information, they make a new card and start using it.

For example: Here is a regular ATM.

Here is an ATM where thieves attached a skimmer to record all the data of all cards that are inserted.

And here's another example of a more subtle skimmer...

Thieves can also install hidden cameras that will record you punching in your PIN at the ATM. Here is what looks like a brochure holder. In the second picture, you see the arrow pointing to the hidden camera.


Thieves can also install a key pad above the normal key pad, which will record your PIN number.


And all of that is just for using ATMs. Guess what? We hardly ever use ATMs. But we do use our debit card for lots of retail purchases. When you make a purchase with your debit card, and you punch in your PIN, that information is stored in the retailer's computer. Many merchants incorrectly store them, making PIN stealing as easy as breaking into an office computer, and using a password a careless employee has taped to the side of the screen. Or tech savvy thieves can hack into retailer computers from a separate location altogether. In defense of the retailers, they are using payment software and probably don't know what's being stored in their computers. And of course there are some employees who are in on the debit card fraud.

(thank you, by the way to our bank fraud investigator who sent me all those pictures)

Our bank fraud investigator said that we should stop using our debit cards for purchases. (with the exception of the grocery store and Target, which he believes are still safe places to use your debit card) When you do choose to use your debit card, sign it as a credit card and don't use your PIN.

In our case, the thief stole Marshall's debit card and PIN, not mine. But since I've used my debit card plenty of times as well, I went ahead and had the bank send me a new card, with a new PIN. I know I'll be using the new debit card much more selectively. And for everything else, I'll use cash or credit.

We did report our debit number theft to the LAPD, but if they're "enthusiasm" about our case is any indication... I'm not going to hold my breath that the case will be cracked.

Live and learn.


34 comments:

  1. wow, thanks for sharing. I keep wondering about our safety overseas. I use a credit card for everything I can... but most places here still require cash only, which we have to get from the ATM. I am thankful nothing has happened so far.

    ReplyDelete
  2. oh and i am just catching up from the weekend on blog reading and saw that I got tagged by you, I will try to do it today... :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. That was really great info thanks for sharing.

    I will be using the CC feature and not my pin from now on!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Where we bank, we get points for using our check card. But, to get the points, you have to have it processed as a credit card, not a debit card. I have always been leary of punching in my pin. Now I have complete justification.

    I am sorry that you guys are going through this. What a mess.

    ReplyDelete
  5. One of the things we do at my work is consumer education. I couldn't have written this better myself!

    Oh, and just a little trivia: if you use your debit card with a PIN, the bank pays the transaction fee. If you use it as a creidt card, then the store pays the transaction fee. That's why a lot of banks do what Kat's does.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Okay Julie... I did the tag and I have lots of purple things in there just for you ;) I am sure it is more information than you wanted to know!

    ReplyDelete
  7. What a pain in the you-know-what... So sorry you've had to learn this particular lesson, but thank for passing the wisdom on...

    ReplyDelete
  8. If you use your debit card like a credit card, then you have the exact same protection as you would with a CC (and the bank DOES have to give you your money back - they take it up with visa or mastercard or whoever issued your debit card). I don't even know my PIN because I only use mine this way (we pretty much never use ATMs and I'm scared of them now!)

    So, you should feel at least some comfort if you are running your debit through using a CC function.

    I'm so sorry you guys had to deal with this! You may want to consider identity theft insurance too (see www.zanderins.com) We have it and it gives me a LOT of piece of mind. If we were to have an identity theft, the company would have to take care of all the junky parts of fixing it - worth it's weight in gold I'd say!

    Best of luck.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Using the debit card like a credit card offers the same protection, but if someone steals the number and uses it like a credit card, the money still comes out of your checking account, which could lead to bouncing checks and your account will be temporarily frozen by your bank. Still a bigger inconvenience than closing a credit card account due to theft.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thanks for the great advice. That is so scary. So sorry you had to learn it the hard way. I use our debit card all the time. I will definitely be more selective about where I use it.

    ReplyDelete
  11. wow, i thought these problems had been addressed ages ago! certainly something more people should be aware of!

    thanks for visiting my blog today via BATW!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thanks for posting this. I can't tell any difference from between the ATM's. Do you get cash using your credit card? Is that expensive if you do. I think it's great advice to use a credit card. My discover card is giving 5% back for every grocery store purchase till the end of December so now I really have to pull it out and start using it.

    ReplyDelete
  13. That just sucks all the way around. I had someone steal my cc # when I used it to buy a product on eBay. The guy never shipped me my camera, stole my info, and then tried to buy porn with my number. That was simply grand. I had to explain to the company that, no, neither my husband nor I had bought any online porn services, and yes, this was a case of cc theft, even though he didn't have my card. Scarred me for life from eBay...

    Hope things are straightened out soon.

    Nice to "meet" you, friend of Lula.

    ReplyDelete
  14. First I want to say it really sucks this is happening to you. But I'm thankful that you have shared this information you have learned.

    I came across your blog through Marshall's blog and Graphically Designing. I've been reading it for quite some time but have never taken the time to say hello.

    So... hello! Love your blog, you crack me up!

    Christi

    ReplyDelete
  15. That sucks man! I had my card cloned a couple years ago at Christmas time! Thank goodness our bank gave back my money too! Their policy is to return the money if proven it was not your doing.

    I noticed purchases for boots in California LOL I was jealous one I bought boots and didn't get to use them ( I love boots!) and they were in a warmer place then me!

    I'm sure they got my info from an ATM. We don't use them very often but had the week before the cloning.


    On a side note,my rss reader is not pulling feeds right now and it is really making me angry LOL so I'm a bit behind!

    ReplyDelete
  16. No worries...I told you I was coming over there to kick some boo-tay. It's all under control. I will take him down.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Glad you got your money back and glad you informed all of us. I have to admit to being a rampant debit card user (EEK!!!!) so you probably saved me and others as well.

    THANK YOU!!!

    ReplyDelete
  18. that's awful! thanks for sharing all the pics..it's amazing..you can't even tell. I think we'll get money from the bank teller and try to rarely use that debit card. my hubby had his credit card number stolen..not the card, just number..and racked up HUGE bills before it was caught. we were in the middle of huge renovations so it was just piled on top of our own bills. it 's such a horrible feeling of violation. very creepy. sorry that happpened to you! ugh!

    ReplyDelete
  19. How scary! I am sorry that happened to you!
    Thanks for sharing the bloggy love today on my big SITS day!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Yikes! Scary stuff, huh?

    Sorry you have to go through this yucky business... what a hassle.

    I'm still on the lookout for that rocket launcher! ;)

    ReplyDelete
  21. Wow, eye-opening and good to know! I saw a credit card skimmer on my local redbox kiosk, but it was obvious that something was different. The pictures you posted are not as obvious and scary!

    Thanks for stopping by on your BATW layover!

    ReplyDelete
  22. This is a great post! THanks for all the fraud photos!

    ReplyDelete
  23. ok, that was a very valuable post, but it scared the crap out of me. Talk about big brother/nasty thief always watching.

    ReplyDelete
  24. That is some really useful information!! Thanks so much for alerting us all to this. I didn't know that they could do this!!

    ReplyDelete
  25. That's awful - I'm so sorry! But thank you for taking this opportunity to educate the rest of us.

    ReplyDelete
  26. WoW. I'm sorry that happened but thank you for bringing to to light for so many of us.

    ReplyDelete
  27. So sorry this happened to you, but thanks for giving us all this good advice.

    Found you at BATW

    ReplyDelete
  28. wow, thanks for the photos... I am now questioning some of the places I've used my debit card. I recently heard that it's better to use the credit card, thank you so much for this post-- I'm only sorry you've had to experience this to be so knowledgeable.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Great post! Thanks for sharing that info and pictures! Very eye opening!

    ReplyDelete
  30. This happened to us as well. We were living in MO and someone used our info to withdraw money from an ATM in Indiana. No one, including the bank, was worried about finding the culprit because the amount of money was so small. We got our money back, but the thief is still able to use his scams. It ticks me off royally that the victims are the ones not getting the justice.

    Thanks for the pictures of the ATMs. I'm showing this one to my hubby.

    Thanks for submitting your post to BPOTW too!

    ReplyDelete
  31. My dad had this happen to him and I have also had this happen. I always use my debit card as a credit card now..that is what the bank said to do..Also I only use bank ATM's not the little one's all over in gas stations. they are privately owned and who knows by who! Easy way to steal info..own an ATM! So make sure only to use a real banks ATM! Sorry you had to go through this! Found you through BPOTW! :)

    ReplyDelete
  32. Wow, this is horrible. I'm gonna have to re think what I'm using.

    ReplyDelete
  33. I work at a grocey store and most people use they debit card. I wasent aware of the risk of using u debit card.

    I,ve been thinking about going back to writing checks. checks are alot safer I belive.

    ReplyDelete