Debit Card Fraud Still Rising; Here’s How to Guard Your Cash

Margarette Burnette
By Margarette Burnette 
Edited by Amy Hubbard

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Fraud at the ATM can lead to money being drained from a bank account, and consumers have a new reminder to check for fraudulent charges.

FICO reported today that the number of debit cards compromised at ATMs and merchant devices in the U.S. rose 10% in 2017 over the previous year. It's a less extreme increase than the 70% jump in such fraud in 2016.

The number of hacked ATMs and merchant card readers also rose over 2016, by 8%, according to the San Jose, California, analytics and credit scoring company. FICO analyzes card transactions in the U.S. and releases its fraud report each year.

The total of compromises and affected card members set a new record, says TJ Horan, vice president of fraud solutions at FICO.

The total of compromises and affected card members set a new record.

Card companies have taken steps in the last couple of years to reduce fraud, including issuing cards with EMV chip technology. The chips use Europay, MasterCard and Visa technology standards to create a unique code for each transaction, making the card practically impossible to copy, which may explain why the spike in fraud was lower than in 2016.

Criminals responded to EMV capability by developing other methods of hacking ATMs, Horan says. For example, fraudsters might try to capture and read data from cards inserted into machines that don't have the latest technology.

Consumers should be aware of the risks and be cautious when withdrawing cash. Here are some ways to protect your debit card and ATM transactions from potential criminals.

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How to guard against hackers

Check the location. Select an ATM that gets a lot of foot traffic or is in a brightly lighted area. Follow the same rule for debit card purchases. When you fill up your car, know that the pumps farthest from the store entrance may be more attractive to criminals.

Check the card reader. Be on the lookout for anything odd about the ATM or point-of-sale machine. If your card doesn’t enter an ATM smoothly, for example, a fraudster could have a skimmer device attached to the opening. Consider going elsewhere for cash.

Check your account. Review your checking account regularly for unauthorized transactions. If your card is compromised, you’ll have to act fast to avoid losing money. If you report a loss within two days, the most you can lose is $50, according to federal law. But you risk losing up to $500 from your account if you wait up to 60 days — or the entire amount in your account if you wait longer.

» Think you’ve been hacked? Read what to do if your bank account is at risk

Check with your bank. Ask your bank for a new card if you believe your card has been compromised, even if there's not yet evidence of fraud. That way, your financial institution can take steps to secure the machine in question. You’ll be protecting yourself and other customers, too.

ATM fraud is an increasing problem. By taking steps to protect yourself, you can keep your card number and your money out of a criminal’s hands.

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