The importance of financial security cannot be overstated. By the end of this year, global card losses are projected to reach $35 million — a figure that climbs annually.
Fortunately, most scams and frauds are preventable. Thieves prey on complacency, so following a few best practices can keep your debit card safe and secure. Follow these ten rules to reduce the chance your card will be compromised:
- Use a PIN.
The first thing you should do to protect your debit card is to choose a personal identification number (PIN). Don’t share this four-digit combination with anyone. If you have multiple cards, make sure that each PIN is unique. Avoid obvious combinations, such as your birth year or “1234.”
Remember to change your PIN at least once a year. This makes it more difficult for people to guess your code, and it prevents them from digging up old ones.
- Add Security Questions.
When you first log into your debit card account, you’ll be prompted to choose and answer a series of security questions. While this extra precaution might seem burdensome, it’s important.
Questions typically include your mother’s maiden name, your first pet’s name, or the make and model of your first car. Even if someone stumbles on your card and guesses your password, they’re unlikely to know these things.
- Review Statements Often.
Your debit card issuer will send you monthly statements either through the mail or digitally. Make sure to review these against your transaction receipts. Any unfamiliar listings might point to a security breach.
If you do spot signs of fraudulent behavior, be sure to report it immediately. The sooner it’s taken care of, the better chance you have of protecting your information and being reimbursed for any lost funds.
- Be Careful Online.
Every day, it seems, there’s a new data breach in the news. If you don’t vet online vendors carefully, your debit card numbers could be among the next batch to wind up posted publicly or sold online.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when online shopping:
- Some websites are more secure than others. Secure ones have a padlock next to the URL, as well as “https” instead of just “http” before the domain name.
- Be wary of phishing scams in emails and text messages.
- Never share personal information with strangers online.
- Do not make online purchases over public Wi-Fi networks.
- While convenient, saving card information on your computer makes it more susceptible to fraud
None of these tips are foolproof. But practicing them makes you less of a target, and most card thefts are crimes of opportunity.
- Avoid Insecure ATMs.
ATMs are hotspots for data poachers. They’ll use what’s called a skimming device, which downloads your card’s information when inserted. Stolen card data is then imported into a third-party database, where it’s either used or sold.
While skimming isn’t a common threat, it’s a very real one. Consider sticking to ATMs inside of banks whenever possible. ATMs located at convenience stores and gas stations are more susceptible to this fraudulent tactic.
- Set Spending Limits.
You can minimize the amount of theft possible to your account by setting spending limits on your debit card. Anyone who gets access to your account can’t exceed these limits, preventing them from draining your funds completely.
A side benefit of this strategy is that it will help you manage your own spending habits. Spending limits aren’t a substitute for proper budgeting, but they can act as a second line of defense.
- Notify Your Bank of Changes.
Banks do a good job of keeping track of accounts and staying on top of suspicious activity. If you travel internationally without telling your financial institution, for instance, your card could be blocked or cancelled. Tell your bank at least two weeks in advance if you plan to travel out of the country.
It’s also a good idea to give your bank a heads up about any large or unusual charges you’re about to make. If you only ever use your debit card for groceries, reach out before you pay for a five-figure medical bill with it. Over-communicating with your bank is always better than under-communicating.
- Protect Your Devices.
Your debit card data information isn’t just sitting on the card itself; it can also be found on your computer and smartphone. Protecting your electronic devices from thefts and hacks also keeps your payments methods secure.
There are a number of security measures you can put up to stop unwanted access, such as firewalls and anti-virus software. You also need to be aware of phishing scams and suspicious web links that can bypass those protections when you unknowingly give them access. And while it might sound low-tech, avoid leaving your phone or computer sitting somewhere in public, where it can be stolen or misused.
- Insert, Don’t Swipe.
EMV chip technology has significantly reduced fraud from point of sale transactions. This is a better option than swiping your card, so you should try to do so whenever possible.
If there is no chip scanner available, consider using a different payment method for that purchase. When in doubt, pay in cash. No data is transferred when bills change hands.
- Skip Free Trials.
Many businesses use free trials to encourage people to purchase the paid version. Although they’re enticing, beware: Most of these businesses require you to add payment information before starting a free trial. This could result in charges you don’t want, as well as theft of your card data if the database is breached.
Unless you suspect you’ll want to use the service long-term, don’t sign up for a free trial that asks for upfront payment information. If offered, use a service like PayPal instead so you don’t have to input your actual card number.
Keeping your debit card safe requires a proactive approach. Go through this list again and see what you can do to amp up your own security. When it comes to your money, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.