Your debit card number is a valuable piece of personal information tied directly to your bank account. Because debit cards are not protected by law from fraud the way credit cards are, they are highly sought after by thieves, who can drain your bank account in a matter of minutes. Protect yourself by taking some steps to keep the number a secret.
Change your personal identification number, or PIN, often and keep it a secret each time. When you use your PIN to pay for transactions in a store, make sure no one else is close enough to see it. If other customers are hovering nearby, hide the keypad from view using your other hand as you type your PIN.
Choose automated teller machines, or ATMs, that are attached to a bank location instead of stand-alone ATMs when you make a withdrawal. The stand-alone machines are more susceptible to ATM skimming, a process whereby thieves attach a small device to the ATM's card reader to read your debit card number when you swipe. Though it is possible for skimming devices to be placed anywhere, it is much harder for thieves to put them on ATMs in a bank location where surveillance is high. To avoid skimming at the gas pump if you use a debit card to pay, go inside the store and have the clerk swipe your card at the register to pay for your gas.
Make online purchases through secure websites only. Secure websites begin with a https:// and should cause your web browser to display a lock symbol in the address bar. Avoid putting your debit card number into a mobile device, as it can be easier to get your data from these devices.
Minimize use of your debit card whenever possible. Use cash for day-to-day transactions. If you have a credit card, use that instead of your debit card when necessary. Credit cards afford more protection than debit cards, including limiting the cardholder’s liability in case of fraud. Because of this, credit card companies monitor activity closely and will block the card or alert the cardholder if it notices suspicious activity.
- Avoid using your debit card in situations where it will be out of your sight for an extended period. This can include using it at restaurants if the card is taken to the back by your waiter and left unsupervised while the waiter serves other tables.
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images