By Jennifer Streaks for TheGrio
These days, everything is about ease of use — and spending your money has never been easier. Every store takes your debit card, there are ATM kiosks everywhere, and now you can even tap your phone in a store to pay with stored financial information. However, this convenience also makes it easy for scammers to get your financial information and take your money from you.
A debit card is a direct link to your bank account and full access to your funds. Information or identity theft can take place at anytime or any place. Knowing this, there may be instances when it may be better to leave your debit card at home.
1) Online. We all shop online because it is super convenient and quick, but it is also an opportunity for hackers to steal your information and go on a shopping spree. While most debit cards are protected against theft after the first $50, imagine the headache of trying to get that money put back into your account and potentially not having money until the account is restored (which can take up to 30 days). It is much better to use a credit card when making online purchases.
2) Restaurants. Consider this: your server often takes your card away to process your payment. While 90% of the time there is no problem, there is that 10% where the card is copied for their future use. So just be careful and use your common sense here.
3) Gas stations. This happens more than you think — you use your debit card at the pump and leave it in the card reader! Should a scammer use the pump after you, they can take your card and immediately start using it. (Trust me on this; it happened to me, and it took 30 days to restore my funds.). So be careful here; sometimes we are moving so fast we can forget things, but the thief will be right there to profit from our mistake.
4) ATMs or checkouts that look off. Identity thieves are getting more skilled with card skimmers, making them look more and more realistic. Remember, banks typically don’t check these machines until they run low on cash, so a couple of weeks can go by before anything is discovered. Before using an ATM, really look at the machine, touch it and make sure that it is legit.
5) The airport. This is a big one because you use a card for almost everything here — checking bags, paying for parking, getting food, etc. Everything is rushed, and you are being pushed to get it done in a hurry to catch a flight or get out of the airport. Identity thieves are counting on this, so it’s best to use a credit card while in transit so your bank account is not at risk.
Some additional quick tips:
Block the view of others when entering your PIN.
Don’t let anyone else enter your PIN ever, for any reason.
Before leaving an establishment, make sure your transaction is complete and review the receipt.
Be aware of your surroundings before using a public ATM.
Jennifer Streaks is Senior Personal Finance Reporter and Spokesperson at Insider and a financial contributor at The Grio.