Are your bank and credit accounts as easy to break into as your garage?
Last week a client told me that large amounts were stolen from his bank account. His debit card had been “skimmed” and his account was drained. The next day my wife reported that the same thing had happened to someone she worked with. Shortly after, our credit card carrier texted about a suspicious transaction. We had just returned from Europe and I thought that was the likely cause, but lo and behold, it occurred at a local gas station.
Here are tips to protect yourself from this type of loss.
First, know your enemy. Skimmers are devices that are placed over ATMs and gas pump card readers.
When your card is inserted, the information is copied. PINs are picked up either by an overlay or by cameras placed nearby.
You won’t know that your card information has been taken and you will find out the hard way when charges appear on your statements. Many people do not check statements on a regular basis, so the theft could continue over time.
But the problem is bigger than skimmers. Debit and Credit card information can be taken by people too who have been recruited into the theft ring. In Europe, waiters bring the credit card machine to the table. In the US, it usually leaves your sight and control, during which the information can be taken
Preventing this type of theft altogether may not be possible so take steps to limit any loss.
1) Be aware. If something doesn’t look right about the machine, don’t use it. Anything out of
the ordinary should trigger an inner alarm. Cover up when typing in your PIN.
2) Consider getting rid of the debit card. Debit card theft from your account may be
reimbursable by the bank, but you’ll be out the money if AND not until the matter is resolved in
3) Lower the ATM daily withdrawal amount to a minimum. Why have $1,500 available for the thief when you never pull out more than $200? If you keep a debit card, lower the per transaction and daily limits to more reasonable limits
4) Sign up for instant account alerts from your bank. The bank will send emails and text alerts notifying you in real time of account activity. You’ll know if something is wrong right away. Notify the banking institution immediately (have phone #s available in your phone).
You wouldn’t leave the door to your home or garage wide open. Why not tighten up your financial accounts to prevent unauthorized access and theft?!