Guide 2 Identity Theft - How To Protect Yourself

   
Guide 2 Identity Theft

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Guide 2 Identity Theft   >   Debit & ATM Cards

Debit and ATM Card Risks


The identity theft risk with debit cards or ATM cards lies in their PIN number. There are three main ways an identity thief can steal your PIN and access your bank account:
  1. The first is if you leave your PIN somewhere that is accessible, in the worst case if you leave your PIN recorded somewhere with your debit card. A thief who takes your purse or wallet and gets possession of your debit card can do very little with it until he gets your PIN. With your PIN he gains full access to your bank account as if he were you.

  2. Another identity theft risk is from magnetic strip card reader or keyboard entry logging devices. Some of these are sophisticated designs, possibly using a minature camera to record your PIN. The identity thief attaches these devices on an ATM or debit card "hole in the wall" money-dispensing machine, to capture your card details.

    This is known as "skimming". Skimming devices have become an increasing risk as technology has advanced. Once your details have been captured this way, your card is usually no longer required by the criminal to access your account. They are designed to look like an official card swiping device, so if you are not on the look-out, it is quite possible to not realize one has been installed. If you have any suspicions, the best thing to do is not to use the machine, and contact the bank as soon as possible.

    A similar skimming technique is possible at a point-of-sale, but any extra card swiping is not easy to conceal, and this form of theft is rare. Again, your best protection is being alert to what is happening to your card if it ever leaves your possession.

  3. One of the greatest debit card risks is when using your debit card in a crowded place, particularly a bar or restaurant. Being overheard or watched when giving any identity details is always risky, but when people are crowded around an ATM machine when you enter your PIN number it is obviously a dangerous situation. "Shoulder surfing" to watch what PIN you enter in these situations is a well-known category of professional identity theft. Many other less obvious situations are also risky. Even when you are sure the person you are dealing with is honest, can you always be sure that everybody watching and listening nearby is too?

    Being alert and conscious of the risk is a state of mind, and it is your strongest defense.

    Remember that getting your debit card's PIN number is usually the criminal's prelude to the theft of your card so it can be used. Allowing a criminal to overhear or observe your PIN can therefore lead on to your physical danger in the form of a mugging later in your evening out in order to get your card.
The key to successfully protecting your debit card identity is keeping your PIN number secure:
  • If you think someone has obtained your PIN but you still have your card, you can contact your bank and arrange to change your PIN number.

  • If your card has lost or stolen, you need to act promptly to cancel it and arrange to have a new one issued, with a fresh PIN. Do not use your old PIN.
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