As more people use debit cards for convenient access to cash from ATMs, for in-store purchasing, or for telephone payments, the opportunities for debit card fraud also multiply. Although there are many methods for protecting debit cards, there are several different ways that thieves can attempt to make illegal charges to a debit account.
- One of the most obvious types of debit card fraud is when someone steals the debit card itself, either by stealing a wallet, not reporting a lost card they find or removing a card from an unattended purse, briefcase or ATM. One of the built-in safeguards against debit card fraud is the PIN (personal identification number) code, which cardholders must use to gain access to an account. However, once a thief has the debit card, his chances of committing fraud increase dramatically, particularly if he is able to steal other information from the victim that may include the PIN code.
PIN and card number theft
- Another form of debit card fraud is theft of the cardholder's PIN and card number. This can occur in several different ways. Thieves can use cameras, or their own eyes, to watch users enter a PIN at an ATM or store checkout counter. They can also commit debit card fraud by "skimming," which involves using equipment to capture the magnetic tape, keypad information, or internal memory of an ATM, gas pump or other payment device. Also, fraudulent employees at points of sale can make a second copy of the payment receipt if you are signing for the bill and can then use your personal details to make online transactions.
- Identity theft can include an extreme form of debit card theft, when the thief attempts to impersonate the cardholder using personal information she has managed to obtain, such as a birth date or social security number. With this information the thief may be allowed to get the debit card number and withdraw cash from the cardholder's account or purchase merchandise which can then be sold for cash or kept.
- A much more dangerous, large-scale form of debit card fraud occurs when someone gains access to a bank's files, often by hacking into the bank's computer system remotely or stealing a bank computer. This gives thieves access to hundreds, or even thousands, of PINs, along with other confidential personal information. On an individual level, hackers may gain access to personal computer information using spyware.
- A different kind of debit card fraud involves the creation of false debit cards based on information taken from payment points. In some cases criminals preprogram the payment machines to capture all of the debit card details. The false cards may have fraudulent account numbers and authentic-looking bank logos. These cards sometimes function without a PIN and may be linked to a bank customer's actual checking account.
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