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9 Best Ways to Prevent Debit Card Fraud [2020]

posted on August 31, 2020 in Technology

Texas Citizens Bank Operations Manager Carol Barton Explains How You Can Avoid Card Fraud

The Current State of Card Fraud

Debit card fraud continues to claim more victims every year. Javelin Strategy and Research estimates that 16.7 million U.S. consumers experienced fraud in 2017. In this article, we’ll go over tips for preventing debit card fraud.

The Cost of Card Fraud

Banks are well motivated to stay ahead of debit card fraud. After all, every dollar of fraud cost banks and credit unions roughly $2.92, a whopping 9.3% increase from 2017. In other words, banks lose almost 3x more than the initial dollar amount stolen. Many financial institutions update their debit cards and security algorithms frequently. However, others procrastinate based on compliance laws.

EMV Card Compliance

While merchants were forced to implement EMV cards years ago, the actual compliance deadline isn’t until October 2020. Meaning, financial institutions don’t technically need to move to EMV cards until later this year. If you think about how long you’ve been inserting debit cards rather than swiping them, it may seem wild that EMV cards are still not the required standard.

How to Keep Your Debit Card and Bank Account Safe

As a card-carrying bank customer, all you really want to know is what you can do about all this. To answer that question, we asked an in-house expert. Texas Citizens Bank Operations Manager Carol Barton leads her team in catching, reporting, and refunding fraud debit card and bank charges. Here are some of the top tips she gives customers to help tighten account security and protect hard-earned cash.

1. Avoid Using Your Debit Card Online


“I tell them [customers] to not use their debit card for online purchases,” said Barton. “Use a credit card or get a Green Dot card and load money on it to make online purchases.”

This may seem annoying, but the fact is: it’s increasingly more difficult to verify online identities. The internet enables accessibility. While that’s made handy resources like Wikipedia and Amazon possible, it’s also alarmingly easy for hackers to put together phony company websites and spam email campaigns.

Remember when Notre Dame football star Manti Te’o was catfished a few years back? That was eight years ago. If a person can be tricked into dating a fake person in 2012, they can certainly be tricked into giving personal information to a fake company in 2020.

By piecing together information from your social media profiles and overall online presence, hackers can socially engineer a campaign designed to look just professional enough and feel just personal enough for you to let your guard down. Spam no longer stands out. The best hackers know how to blend in. To the untrained eye, fraud campaigns look like regular company promotions or giveaways.

2. Beware of Free Online Prizes and Promotions

“With the adoption of EMV (embedded chip) cards and terminals, the types of identity fraud continued to shift online and away from physical stores.” – Javelin Strategy & Research

CONGRATULATIONS! You’re the 1,000,000th visitor! CLICK HERE to claim your free prize!

By this point, it may feel like the millionth time you’ve come across this (or a very similar) sentence. This is the easy stuff. You accidently clicked on a bad link, and now neon text is flashing, an obvious warning sign. However, fraud campaigns are evolving, adapting to social media.

Here’s a common example: have you ever come across a Facebook ad offering a free item? Proceed with caution (or not at all!). The catch: shipping. You’ll need to provide a credit or debit card to cover shipping. Ultimately, you’re giving up a lot more than $5 shipping. Hackers will keep or sell your personal information, so they can steal more later.  

3. Holiday Card Hacking


“Be extra cautious around the holidays, fraudsters tend to come out around the holidays,” warned Barton.

Tis the season for extra precautions. From Black Friday to Christmas Eve, people are inserting, swiping, and typing in their card information more frequently. According to credit reporting giant Experian, the average American consumer planned to spend an average of $846 on gifts in 2018. Of course, that’s in addition to the money they already spend on recurring bills. 

4. Suspect Skimmers

Never assume that just because you’re at a reputable establishment that there’s no chance of debit card fraud. It only takes a few seconds for hackers to install a card skimmer onto a payment terminal. Yes, dim-lit, outside areas are the low hanging fruit, but you can still get your card skimmed inside a Target or Walmart.

“Pull on the card reader at ATMs as well as gas pumps,” advises Barton. These are still two of the most popular areas for debit card fraudsters to stealthily install a card skimming machine. 

5. Phony Phone Requests

We all know not to give telemarketers the time of day, or at least we should. But we often don’t think twice about giving personal information to established service companies over the phone.

For instance, let’s say you get a call from Comcast. The rep says you’re late on a payment and he needs your card information. Otherwise, he’ll turn off your internet. You have plans to watch the latest Game of Thrones episode tonight. You don’t want to deal with late charges or listening to on-hold messages as you try to resolve this issue later. So, you give him your debit card information over the phone. The problem is, that guy doesn’t work for Comcast.

Maybe the fraudster knows that Comcast is the only internet provider available in your ZIP code. Maybe it was a lucky guess. Either way, he now has your debit card number.

6. Keep it to Yourself

Never leave personal information out in the open. You would never leave a password on a restaurant napkin, so why leave it on an office sticky note? The safest place to keep your PIN is in your head. Try your best to memorize important numbers and passwords. That way, you never have to worry about information falling into the wrong hands.

7. Marie Kondo Your Wallet

Best known for helping families declutter their homes, Marie Kondo’s organization tips work just as well for your wallet. The PIN number you keep in one of those card pockets sparks more stress than joy. That should be the first thing to go. Next, cut down on the credit card. Only take with you what you need. That way, you’re only calling to freeze and reorder one card if your wallet gets stolen.

8. Shred It

Always destroy the evidence. That’s what the movies taught you. As soon as you receive a new debit card, reset and memorize your new PIN, and shred the old card. Follow these same steps when receiving new passwords and account numbers in the mail.

9. Review Account Activity

If you learn nothing else, remember this: you are the biggest factor in protecting yourself from debit card fraud. Not your bank, not the companies you shop at. You decide where you bring, use, or share your debit card information.

The more active you are in reviewing your spending, the less likely you are to incur unwanted costs. As a result, you will be more aware of your trends, and immediately know when something’s off.

By reviewing your account activity spending daily, you can report strange spending the day it happens. The sooner you report it, the less you are on the hook for. This handy guide from the Consumer Trade Commission outlines your liability for stolen money. As you’ll notice, the longer you wait, the more liable you become.

If you report: Your maximum loss:
Before any unauthorized charges are made. $0
Within 2 business days after you learn about the loss or theft. $50
More than 2 business days after you learn about the loss or theft but less than 60 calendar days after your statement is sent to you. $500
More than 60 calendar days after your statement is sent to you. All the money taken from your ATM/debit card account, and possibly more; for example, money in accounts linked to your debit account.


My Spending Alerts

The My Spending Feature—available through our TCB app and Online Banking portal—lets you keep an extra eye on your spending. Through My Spending, you can set limits on categories and get alerts when you get close (or go over) those limits.

My Spending on TCB Online Banking app
My Spending email alert via Texas Citizens Bank Online Banking app.

At the minimum, review your monthly bank account statements. Look at the vendors as well as the amounts. Don’t gloss over gas station or service provider names because you get gas and pay bills every month. Make sure the frequency and dollar amount checks out.

If you’re on a standard monthly plan, you should only be getting one bill from each provider each month. Additional charges from familiar vendors could be a sign of debit card fraud.

Learn more about how My Spending alerts can help you catch fraud debit card payments in our recent article.

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