News

Seen At 11: Eliminating Debit Card Danger

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Each time you swipe your debit card, you’re potentially giving a thief direct access to your checking account.

Experts pointed to five instances when consumers should opt to use their credit cards over debit cards, CBS 2’s Maurice DuBois reported.

Like many debit card users, Lorie Briggs relied on hers for everything from groceries to gas to avoid racking up credit card debt.

But what she thought was a good habit cost her big. A thief wiped out her checking account after stealing her debit card number.

“Our account was at zero,” Briggs said.

Experts say there are several situations in which using debit cards can put consumers at risk. Free-standing ATMs, ticket machines and gas pumps have all been targeted by scammers, who place small skimming devices on card readers to steal numbers.

“Think of it this way: Your debit card is giving somebody the potential to walk into your bank account and pull money out, so you have to be very careful with how you use it,” said CBS News Senior Business Analyst Jill Schlesinger.

“Technology is increasing, and it’s become somewhat easier to steal money electronically versus by a gun,” added Scott Sarafian, a U.S. Secret Service agent.

Restaurants are the second place where experts say people should always try to pay with a credit card instead of a debit card.

“In many cases, restaurants are keeping that card information on file, so any way that there is an open file with your card number, expiration date … that puts you at risk,” Schlesinger said.

Also, be careful about paying with a debit card online.

“We purchase so much online now, it’s hard to believe that the debit card is putting you at risk, but it is,” Schlesinger said.

Aside from the potential for hacking, experts say it’s impossible to know who’s behind a website and handling financial information, “which essentially opens up your bank account to potential fraudsters,” Schlesinger said.

When buying a big-ticket item, it’s best to use a credit card, which provides extra protections such as extended product warranties. It’s also much easier to dispute a problem with a credit card than it is with a debit card.

“Your money has come out of your account already, and then you have to go back and try and go after it,” Schlesinger said.

Experts also suggest using credit cards to order a subscription or pay for a month membership because it’s much easier to cancel later.

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