Many people use credit and debit cards interchangeably.  Our partners at WTAJ in Altoona, Pennsylvania warn that this may not be such a good idea.  Credit cards offer additional protection against fraudulent charges that debit cards cannot, particularly since a criminal who obtains your debit card information could use it to withdraw cash, which is significantly harder to get back.

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Avoid using your debit card in the following high-risk places:

  • Outdoor ATMs – It may look like a convenient place to get cash, but outdoor ATMs are much likelier targets for external card skimmers, which criminals can instal over the card reader and intercept your card’s information.  Once they have it, they can access your funds.  Instead, use machines inside staffed facilities. They are much less likely to be tampered with.
  • Gas stations – Skimmers can be installed at the pump and even at the gas station counter.  Instead, pay with a credit card or cash.
  • Online – Entering your debit card information online is a risky proposition, and experts say it’s the most dangerous place for debit transactions.  Hackers can intercept your card information too easily.
  • Bars and restaurants – If you hand your card to a server and they take it away, you have no idea whether they’ve used it appropriately or swiped it on a secondary device to copy information from the card.

If you must use an outdoor ATM or gas station with your debit card, make sure you inspect the card reader for signs of tampering.  Broken seals, added parts that come off when pulled, or signs that the reader may have been forced open are red flags.  Keep an eye out for suspicious charges on your debit account as well (This is just a good general practice!).  If you suspect your card information may have been stolen, report the issue to your bank and, if you know it, the business or location where you believe your information may have been intercepted.