When we hear about massive data breaches at credit report company Experian or a department store like Target, it becomes apparent that debit card problems are spiraling out of control. For the average consumer, a debit card that has been compromised causes all sorts of problems, including obviously the theft of their money or problems with their credit.
The thing is, while cash is not practical for a lot of transactions, there are quite a few reasons to consider using it instead of debit cards. It’s also a good idea to be careful about exactly where you get your cash as ATM machines can be compromised as well. Below are four places where swiping your debit card can be hazardous to your financial health.
One of the worst places for devices called card skimmers are gas stations and they’re a favorite for thieves. A group of four men was arrested in 2013 for stealing over $2 million using skimmers at gas stations, devices that were installed inside the gas station pumps and were even outfitted with Bluetooth so that the thieves could extract collected pin numbers wirelessly and use them to make purchases.
Unfortunately, eating out at your favorite restaurant can be a problem as well, as some servers have gotten into the nasty habit of using handheld card skimmers to steal your credit card info. Of course they don’t really need a machine to do it as they can simply write down your card numbers when they have your card for processing. Even worse is the fact that many restaurants are still using older computer systems to process debit cards, system that are easier for hackers to manipulate. In 2013 a group of Romanian hackers stole $10 million from 150 Subway restaurants.
Smaller stores can be a problem also and, for small purchases, you might wish to use cash instead of a debit card or, if possible, credit card instead. Remember that with a credit card you have a lot less liability if someone steals your information and uses your card than you do when you use a debit card.
Finally there’s shopping online where you can’t, of course, use cash but you should probably use either a credit card or an online payment system like PayPal. Some banks actually offer 1 time credit card numbers to make your online purchases and, since they only work once, aren’t of any interest to hackers at all.
While using cash certainly, as we mentioned above, isn’t nearly as convenient (or safe against pickpockets and other “real world” thieves) it doesn’t open you up to the risks that you have using a debit card.
If you don’t have any other choice, you can actually use your debit card at most grocery stores to get a cash advance and so you can make only one purchase with your debit card and then take out cash for the rest of the purchases that you have that week. It’s not perfect but it will lower your risk somewhat.