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Protecting Yourself Against Debit Card Fraud

Experts say that fraud is on the upswing and scammers are finding new ways steal card numbers.
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Do you ever stress about using your debit or credit card? We can't blame you, given the frequency of reports about data breaches and identity theft. There are constant warnings about scammers "phishing" for card numbers using bogus emails and websites.

Given the focus on credit cards, you might be surprised to learn that consumer experts are equally concerned with fraud involving your "other plastic," aka your debit card. 

A quick look at debit card fraud statistics from

  • The U.S. is ranked #1 in cases of fraud.
  • California and Georgia experienced the most identity theft incidents. 
  • The odds of being a victim of fraud are high and increase with age.

Experts say that fraud is still on the upswing, and scammers find new ways to outwit the chip. So as an active consumer, what should you do to ensure your information is secure? At Andrews Federal Credit Union, we recommend considering three takeaways: 

  1. Take precautions when using your card
  2. Log in frequently to monitor your checking account for unauthorized transactions 
  3. Know how to report fraud, if you have a problem

Beware of Skimmers at Unknown ATMs

Did you know that someone can steal your debit card information and use it without having a card? Dishonest people can eyeball your card and PINs when you make a retail purchase. And, someone can hack checkout terminals at retail stores. Plus, those same phishers also seek to steal card information from the internet.

There's also something called the "skimmer." Put simply, small devices with tiny cameras can be secretly attached to ATMs or retail terminals and illegally record every debit card transaction. So, watch for anything unusual near the card entry slot when you use retail terminals or ATMs. If your card doesn't enter the slot smoothly, that can be a warning sign. If you notice this, call the financial institution that owns that ATM immediately, if there is one, to report a potential skimmer.

See the Light

It's best to use ATMs that are inside or adjacent to credit unions. They tend to have better security than machines at convenience stores, restaurants, and other places. Otherwise, choose ATMs in well-lighted areas. Scammers often avoid locations where they might get caught installing a skimmer. 

The "well-lighted" rule goes for other places, such as gas stations. If you're paying with a debit card, use a pump that's close to the building. Better yet, walk the card inside and pay at the counter.  

Monitor Your Account

One silver lining with debit card fraud - it's relatively easy to spot. 

  • Use Digital Banking. Check your balance and recent transactions daily. Look closely for any purchases or withdrawals that you did not make.
  • Set up Alerts. With an Andrews Federal account, you can opt to receive real-time notifications every time a transaction occurs. 
  • Opt into e-Statements. If you miss something while monitoring your transactions via Digital Banking, you might catch it while viewing your monthly statement electronically. Plus, e-Statements also protect your account information from being stolen from your mailbox.
  • Keep several accounts. A checking account is a great place to keep money for everyday expenses. But consider moving extra cash into savings accounts, money markets, or share certificates. Doing so could limit the financial damage should you become a debit card fraud victim. Plus, you'll earn interest on your deposits.

Report Problems Quickly

Visa's Zero Liability Policy* guarantees that you won't be held responsible for unauthorized charges made with your account or account information. You're protected if your Visa credit or debit card is lost, stolen, or fraudulently used, online or offline.

If you suspect your card is stolen or has been used by someone other than yourself, log in to Digital Banking to report it immediately. Scammers will often continue to make withdrawals on an account until the debit card has been canceled. 

Visit our Security Center to learn how to report a lost or stolen card.


* Visa's Zero Liability Policy does not apply to certain commercial card and anonymous prepaid card transactions or transactions not processed by Visa. Cardholders must use care in protecting their card and notify their issuing financial institution immediately of any unauthorized use. Contact your issuer for more detail.