ATM debit cards have been considered to be much safer than credit cards. With a Personal Identification Number (PIN) known only to you, it was unlikely that your account could be compromised. But thieves now have found several ways to capture your secret PIN.
1) ATM machines have been found with false fronts enclosing a card swiper that is attached to the ATM machine. The thieves sit a few hundred yards away, capturing your card number and PIN electronically as you complete your transaction. Within moments they encode a blank card with your information. Within moments after that, your bank account is in jeopardy. 2) Software in the debit-card machines of certain retailers was recently found to actually store the PINs of customers on a network, instead of erasing them, leaving the information open to hacking. A recent wave of debit-card theft, using those stolen PINs, has left banks scrambling to assess the damage, and customers around the country with drained bank accounts.
The biggest heartache with ATM debit-card fraud is that you’re not protected by the $50 limit on the liability, as you are with credit cards, unless you catch the problem within two days. Under the ATM or Debit Card Loss or Fraudulent Transfers law, if you don’t become aware of an unauthorized withdrawal or purchase within two days, your liability goes up to $500. If you don’t notice an account problem for 60 days after a statement is mailed to you, you have no protection. Your account balances, even your overdraft protection, can disappear. How to protect yourself:
Don’t use the PIN pad for retail transactions. Ask the retailer to run it as a credit card to ensure you’ll have to sign the slip. –Try to use the same ATM machine so you’re familiar with its face, or use a machine at an in-store location, such as a grocery.
Call the automated teller at your bank frequently to check for unauthorized transactions, and check your statements immediately. –Ask your bank for the old-style ATM card, instead of the debit card. You might have to insist: The ATM debit card is a moneymaker for the bank, as it gets paid for every transaction on your card.