2012-02-17 / Editorials

Debit cards: blessing and curse

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of being robbed.

It’s a blend of anger, disbelief, confusion, anxiety and fear—but mostly anger.

Those unfortunate enough to experience the theft of their personal property— whether in a home burglary or by a pickpocket—will no longer be as trusting of society.

Even the eternal optimist is forced to wonder why there are those among us who find it okay to profit at the expense of others. Yet the thieves are out there, everywhere, and today they have more tools than ever to perform their shameful deeds.

Before the Digital Age it actually required some work to be a thief; today, millions of dollars can disappear in a fraction of a second with nothing more than the click of a button. But it isn’t only the Internet that’s being used to touch the accounts we thought were untouchable—it’s our beloved debit cards.

Praised for the access they give customers to their money, socalled check cards also give thieves access to bank accounts—if they’re willing to go to the trouble of stealing a target’s information and PIN.

Apparently some people are.

Earlier this month, two men were arrested and accused of wiring a Chase ATM vestibule on Moorpark Road in Thousand Oaks so they could capture customers’ account information using a “skimming” device and record the customers entering their PINs. If they hadn’t been stopped, the two men would have had access to more than 90 bank accounts and possibly thousands of dollars, police said.

In 2008 banks lost a record $788 million from debit-card fraud, according to the latest estimates from the American Bankers Association, due mostly to stolen and counterfeit debit cards. That number has undoubtedly increased as we begin 2012.

So it’s time for card users to stop treating their debit cards like their cellphones and pulling them out every chance they get.

It also means taking those extra precautions to protect your information, even at the risk of seeming paranoid. Try covering your hand when you’re entering your PIN (even at the ATM), for example.

To learn more about protecting your debit card information, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre04.shtm.

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