Here’s how to stop debit card thieves from taking a swipe at your bank account.

2 minute read

Most consumers use both debit cards and/or credit cards to pay monthly bills and cover everyday expenses such as gas, groceries and dining out. Both types of cards provide convenience and can be used just about anywhere, but if the cards or account numbers are stolen and used for fraudulent purchases, the cards’ fraud protections differ greatly.

Under the Fair Credit Billing Act, if someone makes fraudulent purchases using your credit card, you’re only responsible for up to $50 of unauthorized transactions.[1] And if you report a lost credit card before it’s used by thieves, you’re not liable for any of the unauthorized charges. If crooks get their hands on your debit card, however, you could be on the hook for up to $500 – or even the entire amount for the fraudulent transactions – if you wait too long to report the card as lost or stolen.

Find out five steps you can take to prevent debit card fraud…

Report the missing debit card right away

Under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA), if you report a debit card as lost or stolen before someone else uses the card, you aren’t responsible for any unauthorized transactions. However, if someone uses the debit card before you report it’s been lost or stolen, your liability depends on how long you waited before reporting the missing card to your bank.

If you report your missing debit card within two days after you notice it’s missing, you’re responsible for up to $50 for any unauthorized transactions made with the card. That’s not too bad, but if you wait longer than two days, you’re looking at a liability of up to $500. Wait more than 60 days to report the missing debit card and you’ll be responsible for all the money taken from your ATM/debit card account, according to the Federal Trade Commission.[1]

But your losses might not stop there. You could also be liable for money stolen from other accounts that are linked to your debit account.

Keep account information on hand

The FTC recommends keeping a record of your debit account number, expiration date and the telephone number for the card issuer or bank so you can report the missing card right away.[1] Then keep the account information in a secure place, out of sight from others who could misuse the information for unauthorized transactions.

Guard your PIN

Never carry your debit card’s personal identification number (PIN) in your purse, pocket, wallet or other handy place in your car or clothing. And never write the secret PIN on a deposit slip, envelope or other papers. Instead, memorize your PIN. That way, thieves can’t stumble across the password and use it to run up hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars on an unauthorized debit card shopping spree.

Check your bank account regularly

It only takes a minute to log into your checking account, skimming recent transactions for unfamiliar purchases or other suspicious transactions. Remember, even if you haven’t lost your debit card or had it stolen, thieves can get their hands on your debit card number in other ways, so checking your account regularly can alert you in time to report the fraud and lessen your liability for unauthorized purchases.

Pay only on secure sites

When making a purchase with your debit card, always make sure the website URL begins with “https,” the designation for a website where your credit card or debit information remains secure.


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About the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is a full-time freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. Deb went from being unable to get approved for a credit card or loan 20 years ago to having excellent credit today and becoming a homeowner. Deb learned her lessons about money the hard way. Now she wants to share them to help you pay down debt, fix your credit and quit being broke all the time. Deb's personal finance and credit articles have been published at Credit Karma and The Huffington Post.

Published by Debt.com, LLC