A couple weeks ago, I was just sitting at my desk at work about to leave for the day when I got this text from my bank saying they may have detected some fraudulent activity. Shocked and nervous, I logged into my bank account and found a charge that I definitely did not make. To make matters worse, it was a pretty large amount of money charged, leaving me out of money I needed. I immediately called the number that was provided in the text and confirmed to them that I didn’t make that transaction.
Luckily, they were able to reverse the charge, but they had to close the debit card. I was able to get a new debit card at the bank that same day, but it was definitely a hassle having to change any of my recurring bills that were linked to that card to a new card. It was a terrible experience to go through.
I learned a lot from this experience, and I wanted to share some tips to make sure you lessen the chance to becoming a victim to this. Unfortunately there are card skimmers everywhere, and you really can’t avoid them. But, there are ways to go around them to lessen the risk of your account being compromised.
Use a credit card instead of a debit card
As a frugal person who is paying off credit card debt, that is the last thing I want to do – run more debt. But, a credit card is a better alternative compared to a debit card in that your actual bank balance isn’t touched when using a credit card. It’s technically borrowed money so if you ever happen to become a victim of someone using your account it won’t affect your actual money. If you do use your credit card, make sure you pay off those transactions in full afterwards so you don’t put yourself in more debt.
Side note: You could use a debit card as a credit card but it would still affect your bank balance.
Use cash when making in store purchases
Using cash is another alternative to pay for your purchases, whether it be groceries, out to eat or fun shopping trips. Using cash is also a way to make sure you don’t go over your budget too. Of course, just be mindful of how much cash you are carrying on you, and only take out minimal amounts just in case you accidentally lose your wallet.
Use your card only if there is a chip reader
Chip readers were created because it adds another level of security. It’s an expensive technology, which means not all businesses have them yet. When you swipe at a card terminal and put in your pin, you could put your account at risk because of card skimmers. The worst part is that you don’t know if they’re actually there. To be better safe than sorry, if you are making a purchase and their card terminal does not accept the chip yet, use a credit card or cash instead.
Use apps to make your purchases, if possible
Gas stations are the most common places to get your card skimmed by these criminals. I found out that the one gas station I frequent by my home had skimmers at the gas pumps! When it comes to purchasing at these outside places, don’t. Either go inside and pay there, or use an app like Exxon/Mobile does called Speedpass. I do this and it ties into my rewards points account called Plenti, which after a certain amount of points, you get money off your gas bill! The Speedpass app is good so I can pay for gas using my phone (which is tied to my Apple Pay account) and I won’t have to swipe my card. Hopefully more retailers allow you to pay using Apple Pay (which is more secure and you don’t have to even take your wallet out) to keep your account safe.
It’s annoying that these card skimmers can be anywhere and you wouldn’t even know it. This experience has made me more aware of where I use my debit card when I am out. Hopefully one day, this kind of crime can be eliminated for good!