by Mary Thorson
Breaches of security systems to protect debit card users’ financial information and checking account balances have covered the headlines lately. Incidences of security system failures at Target and T.J. Maxx stores have aroused the attention of many consumers. While the industry pursues systemic means to address security breaches, individuals can take steps to protect their own accounts from loss.
Plastics (any debit, credit, or automated teller machine (ATM) access device) are a huge convenience. After the mid-1980’s, the electronic financial transaction evolution occurred, and, plastics (or the numbers and codes associated with the cards) could be used beyond withdrawing cash and extended to numerous functions. The industry does a good job of managing the risk associated with plastic products; however, the knowledge about how to circumvent the risk management is just about parallel to it.
What do consumers need to know beyond NOT writing a PIN (personal identification number) access code on the back of the card?
Location, location, location – Take a look at the locations you typically use to obtain cash from an ATM. Many ATM operators, especially banks, now provide more protective and private enclosures for outdoor ATMs. Like to use the drive-up ATM? Sitting in a car with the window down and your card in the machine may not offer the most secure environment. Also, outdoor ATMs offer criminals more access to put electronic devices on the machine that automatically collect your information.
Deep pockets – Consider the balance you maintain in any account accessible by a plastic device or code. Lower balances equal less risk. Transferring funds from other accounts only when needed can mitigate risk.
On-line purchases – Obviously, entering your card number and any access codes into an Internet site expands the possibility that your information may be obtained and used quickly and to a great extent. Today’s consumer has embraced the convenience and variety on-line shopping offers, but care should be taken to determine the viability of the vendor.
Watch your accounts – On-line banking offers facility to accountholders to stay on top of account activity. Make it a habit to review accounts on a periodic basis and report any suspected fraudulent or erroneous activity to the financial institution immediately. Federal law protects credit card, debit card, ATM access card, and checking product accountholders from liability for unauthorized transactions and transactions that appear on the account that are of an incorrect amount or frequency. However, some protections are not enforceable if the consumer does not report issues promptly upon discovery.