Debit or credit card theft and fraud seems like an increasingly common occurrence these days. If it happens to your credit card, in most cases you are covered.
However, it can still a very stressful experience and a HUGE PAIN IN THE ASS to fight the charges, go a few days or weeks before getting a replacement card, and then having to update all of your online payments to the new card.
I’ve been a victim of credit/debit card fraud twice, and learned a few things with each experience.
Unfortunately, credit card thieves are getting increasingly advanced and high tech. Here are a few extra precautions to take that you may not have thought of yet.
1. Be Extra Cautious at ATM’s & Other Payment Hubs
Thieves are becoming increasingly high tech and taking advantage of loose monitoring at ATM’s, gas stations, and other remote payment machines. I had to learn this one the hard way.
In a trip to Peru, I experienced debit card fraud in an ATM machine, only to later find that someone had made multiple withdrawals with a PIN very shortly thereafter.
How did they know my PIN? My bank told me that some thieves are attaching tiny high tech cameras to see you punch in your PIN. If you leave the card, they run over to grab it, and withdraw until your bank shuts down the card due to suspected abuse.
How can you protect yourself from this? Use one hand to cover up your PIN entry. It probably wouldn’t hurt to cover your card number as well, as you put it in the machine.
Bonus tip: keep an eye out for weird looking magnetic strips, velcro, glued on devices, mirrors, or anything else that looks suspicious. If you see anything like this, walk away.
Bonus tip #2: only use ATM’s located in banks, if possible. The entire ATM machine may be fraudulent.
Bonus tip #3: don’t use your debit card anywhere other than your bank. It does not offer the same protections as a credit card. In my case, I only was covered for $300 of the $400 that was stolen from my checking account. With a credit card, I would not have been left footing any of the theft.
2. Foil Electronic Pickpockets
You know those little smart chips that are found in many credit cards, passports, and even driver’s licenses these days? They are called radio-frequency identification chips (RFID) or Near Field Communication (NFC) chips, and they allow you to do that awesome wave or tap-paying (because who wants to actually put in all that work required to pull a card out and swipe it?).
It turns out that the chip technology that allows the ease of tapping comes with a cost – possible security breaches and electronic pickpocketing. A thief could hold a scanner next to your wallet or purse for a few seconds, scans your data, and moves on to the next victim. It’s been estimated that over $1 billion annually has been stolen this way, but nobody knows for sure since it is so hard to detect.
This video that shows how easy it is to be a victim of electronic pickpocketing may surprise you.
There are a number of ways to foil these thieves:
- If you pack a wallet, put it in your front pocket versus your back. If a purse, carry it around your front, not your side.
- If you have multiple cards with chips, it has been said that they could cancel each others signals out… not so sure about that one…
- Put a little slice of aluminum foil in your wallet, on the outside of the contents. This prevents the signal from escaping to the scanner. Aluminum is so thin and light, that this seems like a no brainer.
3. In Restaurants, Take your Card to the Counter
Leaving the world of high-tech pickpocketing and venturing into the world of good ole’ fashion situational theft… you have to start being more careful at sit-down restaurants.
I learned this one while traveling to Canada. I’m not sure if it is required by law or if it became a standard business practice on its own, but at every sit down restaurant in Canada, the waitstaff will bring a processing machine to your table to process the transaction.
In the U.S., this never happens. They give you the receipt, you give them the card, and then the card disappears for 5-10 minutes. Most waitstaff are good people, but not all. And there is potential for your card name/number/security code to be jotted down or a photo to be taken. The solution? Take the bill to the front payment counter or tell your waitstaff you are in a hurry to leave and follow them to the processing device.
Simple, but effective.
Bonus tip: avoid other situation theft scenarios – hotel room cleaning, giving your number over the phone vs. an online payment, etc.
Credit Card Theft Discussion:
- Have you been a victim of one of restaurant, ATM, or electronic credit card theft?
- What additional tips do you have to prevent card theft?