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Protect Yourself From Debit Card Or ATM Card Identity Theft

Aug 18, 2007
With identity theft on the rise, it is necessary to be aware of how thieves operate and what you can do to protect yourself. This article will deal specifically with these issues regarding debit cards and ATM cards.

With ATM and debit cards, it is the PIN that poses the risk for identity theft. An identity thief can illegally obtain your PIN and gain access to your bank account using three primary methods.

The first of these methods is keeping your PIN with your ATM or debit card, especially if it is designated as such. If a thief grabs your wallet or purse and gets his hands on your debit card, it will be useless to him without your PIN. If he has your PIN, he can fully access your bank account without anyone even knowing it is not you.

The greatest risk to your debit card security is using it in a crowded public place, particularly a restaurant or bar. There is always a risk of being watched or overheard while giving identity information and it is especially so when there is a crowd around an ATM machine. One well-known method used by identity thieves is called -shoulder surfing- where the thief tries to see what PIN is entered when you make a transaction. There are other risks that are not as obvious, too. Though you may trust that the person you are dealing directly with is honest enough, you can not be sure the same is true of those nearby who may be able to see and hear what is going on.

Your best defense is to be habitually aware and vigilant. Always keep in mind that obtaining your PIN is going to be followed by the theft of your card or your card number. You are at risk of being mugged for your card a short time later if you let a thief see or hear your PIN.

The third method of obtaining your PIN by an identity thief is through a magnetic strip reader or keyboard entry logging applications. Some of these have a very sophisticated design. Some will use a pinhole camera to get a recording of your PIN. The thief affixes these devices to the ATM or similar machine for the purpose of capturing the details of your card. This is called -skimming-. In recent years, skimming applications have increasingly become a risk because of the advancements in technology but they are not as yet commonplace. The thief no longer needs your physical card to gain access to your bank account once he captures your card information in this manner. Though they do look very much like a real card swiping machine, a frequent user will most likely discern the difference.

Another method of theft that is rare can occur at the point of sale but card swiping that is beyond what is necessary for the sale is harder to hide. The best way here to protect yourself against identity theft is to be aware of what is happening to your card if it is out of your personal possession.

PIN number security is the best way to protect yourself from being a victim of debit card identity thieves.

Contact your bank and have your PIN number changed if you believe your PIN number has been stolen but you still have possession of your card. For a lost or stolen card, Cancel the card as soon as possible and get a new one issued. Be sure to get a new PIN number, too. Never use your old PIN number after you have replaced a lost or stolen card.

Using the information above will help you to avoid becoming the victim of identity theft. Being vigilant in protecting your information can save you money, time and stress.
About the Author
Leon Edward provides free information online on identity theft prevention, internet privacy and FREE Identity Theft Prevention Checklist at his website Identity Theft Protection
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