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Debit Card Fraud

Updated on May 30, 2009
Suspicious Device on ATM
Suspicious Device on ATM

Debit cards have increased in popularity over the last few years. They give you the flexibility of paying without needing to carry cash. Fraudulent checks have become more common and they risk bouncing, therefore many businesses have made the switch to using debit.

Debit cards are more secure than credit cards, checks, or cash, because they require a special personal identification number (PIN) in order for its user to have full access to the account.

Welcome to the computer age criminal

Those are some old school ways or thievery. Computers have made it easier to rob you without you even knowing it. Most debit accounts have a limit on the amount of cash you can withdraw in a day. Therefore, criminals who use the first two methods will only be able to make off with a few thousand dollars before the card is flagged. Don't underestimate the younger generation they will use technology to its fullest potential.

Computers and technology have made debit machines safe and secure. Nonetheless, there are still a few ways criminals can get into your bank account.

1. Never write down your PIN code.

If your purse or wallet is stolen, be certain that the culprit will dig around for a PIN code written down somewhere. With it they will have access to your money.

2. Look over your shoulder.

Some criminals choose to watch and see if someone hasn't been careful covering their PIN code. With the PIN they can now snatch your purse or wallet and make like bandits

3. The old card jam trick

Sometimes the teller might tell you that the card isn't working and that you will need to enter the PIN a few times. Security cameras may be positioned to focus in as you dial in your code. If they tell you that your card is stuck in the machine, DON'T LEAVE! Insist on verifying it yourself. If you do leave they will have your card and PIN. So before leaving report the card to the bank and have it disabled.

Debit Card Reader
Debit Card Reader

4. Debit card cloning

This method is by far the most popular, here's how it works. The teller tell you that the machine is not working and that they need to swipe the card on their machine. After you hand them your card they will swipe their debit machine and when you're busy putting in your PIN code they swipe it again on a card recorder. Security cameras or an accomplice looking over your shoulders collects the PIN code as you type it in the machine.

The card recorder can then be used to make a duplicate debit card that can be used at any automatic bank machine. This method is by far the most popular because it is virtually impossible to trace the offender. The criminal can also slowly take the money out of your account over time without you even knowing it. Most people don't find out they are being robbed until the end of the month when they receive their bank statement. By then the criminal would have made off with everything.

Where are they?

Some of the most common places where debit card frauds occur are at convenience stores and gas stations. Employees at these venues may become disgruntled at their employer, or they may be professionals who take up the job for a few days (no background check needed), just long enough to duplicate some debit cards and move on to another venue.

They can also occur at ATM themselves. There have been reports that devices (debit card recorders) are being placed over the slot on the machines, with hidden cameras they can steal until they are discovered and their equipment removed.

Debit card fraud is also beginning to be more organized. Crime rings have been known to enlist the help of tellers, the majority of whom are from 24 hour venues. They may use pressure tactics, threats or may even invite them in on the cut.

Protect yourself

As a rule of thumb the only way you can really protect yourself from these types of crimes is to keep you PIN code private. If you think someone looked over your shoulder or if a camera seems suspiciously positioned onto the number pad, report it. If you notice a teller swipe your card twice onto two separate machines, report it. When filling up on gas, pay by debit at the pump, NOT INSIDE. Be suspicious of strange devices on ATM machines, if in doubt report it. It is also a good idea to have internet access to you bank account so that you can monitor for suspicious transactions on a day to day basis. If you do your banking on-line be certain that your access is secure, this means having virus protection and a firewall, and if you use a wireless router, make sure that your connection is encrypted and locked from outside users.


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    • profile image

      irene 4 years ago

      15,000 rands have been stollen from my accounts. How did the criminals manage to beat the withdrawal limit?

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      minnie 5 years ago

      It just happened to me in Hawaii. My debit card was cloned and they used it in Texas in the Krueger store and Tom Thumb . 21 times for 56 dollars each time all the same day.

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      christopher wietrzykowski 5 years ago

      i just found out last night when trying to get food for me and my family that someone had hacked my card and bled it dry.ive been trying to get ahold of my card company all day and all i get is the run around from(skylight one).my card was used in 3 different states around the same 12 hour is this possible if i still have my card?it was used in IL,LA, and OH.everytime i call the company i can barely understand them and the supervisor is always on a call.i just want my money back and not have to deal with this stress.i just want awnsers to what i need to do.....

    • Jyle Dupuis profile image

      Jyle Dupuis 6 years ago from Henrico, Virginia

      Thats terrible. For Canada and US banks their insurance covers those kind of losses. I would suggest going to your bank and demanding to speak to someone who can help you, when it's over the phone its easy for them to dismiss you. If not, there should be some legal route for you to take. Good luck.

    • profile image

      CiaF 6 years ago

      I am sorry to see so many of yours losses. I have been hit by a similar fraud and with no positive help from my bank. I went out one night with my friends and my bag was lost which had my Debit card, cash, mobile phone. I am from a small town in ireland and never expected this to happen to me. Upon checking my account I saw more than 1000 pounds were missing. Calling my bank they said few of those transactions are cash withdrawals and shopping in grocery shops using my pin no. I never store my pin no anywhere and dont give it to anyone. My bank is not returning the money and is not ever attempting to check the cctv camera above the atm the money was taken out. I need some advice on how can i get my money back. May be a legal route will help. Is there anyone who can reply me. Thanks

    • profile image

      Mags 6 years ago

      This just happened to me yesterday. I am in TN and three charges were made out in LA, one including a charge to check on the bank balance. I was flabbergasted--I only thought this could happen if they took the actual card. Initially the lady at the bank asked me several times if I gave my pin number to family to use but I don't let other family members use my card and no one knows my pin. This was when she told me that a camera was likely recording at a gas terminal or some other device where I swiped the card and could see me input the pin. Terminated the card, got a new card and pin # reissued and the bank is reimbursing me. I will be using cash a lot more from now on.

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      Blond 6 years ago

      They have stolen money form me. I have my debit card with me and they could check what my available balance is before they draw the money.

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      John 6 years ago

      Got to watch that younger generation! lol Well this happened to me also and I have no idea if it was the younger generation or the middle or older. I could care less how old they were. Crooks come in all shapes sizes and AGES! I caught it the next morning Bank cancelled card and reimbursed me the entire amount that was almost stolen (transaction was pending still) . My recommendation is check account online every single day. We live in a new age. Scary times calls for diligence.

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      cris 6 years ago

      I too have been a victime of the above.The bank made me aware that there are so many possibilities, waiters,restaurants,have machines that duplicate the card,because we eat out a lot,and or a convenience employee,a scanner placed on outside atm after hours.hope this is helpful.

    • Jyle Dupuis profile image

      Jyle Dupuis 6 years ago from Henrico, Virginia

      Your bank needs to be made aware of the problem. They will usually have insurance to cover the breach into your account. In the meantime change your pin number and have them issue you a new card.

    • profile image

      fredric fomm 6 years ago

      fraudulent access have been made in my card. what can i do?

    • profile image

      Sue 6 years ago

      This happened to me this week, fortunately the account was empty - waiting on a cheque to clear - and they only got away with their "test" a £10 top up on a pay as you go phone. I noticed this and queried it, the bank - Natwest - were brilliant, stopped card, refunded £10 immediately, text me to advise new card in post. Apparently this is common, a small phone top up to test out cloned card, chances are you won't notice, I was very lucky, my advice now is never use supermarket cashpoints and keep a close eye on your account for odd transactions.

    • profile image

      Vusi 6 years ago

      My card was cloned on the 24th September and R4000.00 was drawn from my account, between Saturday, Sunday and Monday morning. I only realized in the late afternoon when i went to a grocery shop and bought few items, as usual i took out my debit card to pay and the transaction was declined. When i got home i checked on my mobile phone to see whether i had masseges from the bank and yes it was there, advising me that my card was on hold due to suspected fraud (that's the unsual withdrawals on my account that alerted the bank) I can't figure out where was i caught by the criminals.

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      ayesha 6 years ago

      my card was snatched over cash machine while withdrawing money i reported police n informed my bank would i get my money back. he took out money frm my card

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      Claudio 7 years ago


      check this website: . It's a new thing, completely safe against card cloning. Maybe you will find it interesting!

    • profile image

      ross 7 years ago

      It is debit card fraud.

      Oversea Chinese Banking Corporation

    • profile image

      philanthropicone 7 years ago

      3 purchases of $400 90 and 70 were charged from my account with my card.I immediately check my wallet and the card was still there.I call my bank and they said it was being used locally.(they said is was stange) Hopefully ill get my money back on Monday. Im very hesitant to use my card now but cash sucks (Itend 2 spend all my cash)The same thing occurred 2 my friend the same day luckily he didn't have the money in his account and it was denied.I would advise anyone 2 only use your card at legit buisiness and watch while its being swiped .Only use ur banks atm .Good luck 2 those hoping for a money return.

    • profile image

      LINDA 7 years ago

      I'm sorry to hear of other people's misfortune such as myself. I'm sharing my story here, because to agree with the original author of this article, I have been treated like this is no big deal at all, and I think its disgusting - this is the reason these scammers are continuing to get away with it.

      I have a visa debit card from my bank. I keep it absolutely securely with me at all times and no one has access to it but myself. I woke up one saturday morning to find a $175 charge to my account (at 1:30am while I was asleep) to a restaurant/Club that is literally within the same zip code as my home. I immediately checked my wallet & of course my card was still there.

      I immediately called my bank to cancel the debit card to prevent future fraudulent charges.

      I called the restaurant and they said that the transaction was "swiped", meaning it was not a manual key entry). I told her this is impossible, that I was holding the card in my hand at that moment.

      I called my bank again and asked them if it was swiped, and they not only said yes it had been a swiped transaction, but actually spoke to me in a somewhat disbelieving manner as they found it was quite a coincidence that the place this had happened was in my local area.

      They refunded my money after about 4 days, but the fact that this can happen scares me tremendously. I have proceeded to file a police report within the county that this occurred in, and if I learn of anything that can be helpful to other victims of fraud I will update my post on here. A personal friend that is a lawyer told me that “skimmers’ are very prevalent, especially in Miami, and that they can be anywhere from gas stations to ATM machines. A skimmer will make an identical copy of your magnetic strip and that is how a duplicate card is made. He recommended using cash in any areas you may feel aren’t the safest.

      I mainly wanted to tell my story because when this happened to me I found it impossible that my card could have been swiped while it was still in my possession. If I can be of help to anyone else, or anyone reading this has suggestions or feedback for me I sincerely appreciate it.

    • profile image

      Rick 7 years ago

      Don't even trust chip-based ATM cards. We just lost $500 to theft (thankfully, I check my account online fairly often and caught it early.

      My wift and I ONLY use our debit cards for cash withdrawls and ONLY at ATM machines from our bank. We don't even know each other's PIN numbers.

      As far as I can figure, my wife made a withdrawl on June 18 from what must have been an ATM that had been tampered with. On June 28, there was a bogus withdrawl made for $100. We actually had a bit of a squabble over it. On the morning of July 1, I checked it again, and there was another $100 withdrawn (and we were all together and both cards were in our possession). We left on a trip that morning and when we got to our hotel 9 hours later, I logged in and another $300 was gone.

      The bank claims that the actual chip card was used. I maintain that someone has duplicated that chip card and skimmed our PIN from the ATM, as we were all together with both cards accounted for.

      I am in the technology field (IT) and I am beginning to think that all of this technology that makes everything convenient is not worth the plastic that the cards are made from.

    • profile image

      PaO 7 years ago

      I just notices my debit card was used while I was out of the country,... funny thing is that it happened the same thing to my dad two weeks ago!

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      TaraPez 7 years ago

      So myself and two friends went to Buffalo Wild Wings for some beer and wings......we all three split the tab with our credit cards........4 days later we find our bank accounts cleared out......since they were debit credit cards they somehow duplicated our cards and went on a shopping spree......couple things Ive learned.....never let your card leave you that friendly waitress is not always a sweet girl.......if you must pay with card walk with your server and watch her swipe your card.....never let your card out of your site .....these card readers are battery powered and they can copy your card quickly......use cash if possible...I'm now all about for banking......we all had three different banks......wachovia, compass and chase. Wachovia was the only one that credited an other two friends were stuck with negative thousand in their account....all they need to do is swipe your card and they make duplicates.....

    • profile image

      Gail 7 years ago

      This is not a slam on the "younger generation." Every age group has criminals, and younger criminals tend to know a lot more about technology, so they will use it to their advantage. Stop looking for reasons to get all bent out of shape!!!

    • profile image

      London Resident 7 years ago

      I was a victim of this on the 31st of march while at home and in possession of my debit card my card was used to make 7 purchase at a bookmakers and 1 cash withdrawl to the value of £1400 the bank is saying this is not possible and I am liable as they were supposedly done with chip and pin I now have to prove the possibility and appeal

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      Shadeslayer 8 years ago

      I know somebody, a very close relative, who has just today gone through a similar experience. Though it is not clear till now that how was a transaction made through an ATM when the ATM card was still with its right full owner. A complaint has been launched and hopefully some results will come out by Monday.

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      UK Resident 8 years ago

      Yes, I agree with the above two comments regarding the statement "Don't underestimate the younger generation they will use technology to its fullest potential."

      Bit prejudiced towards young people, don't you think? Not all young people are criminals y'know.

      If you were based in the UK, anyone would think you might be Daily Mail readers!! If you read that paper you'd never leave the house, because you'd be paranoid that all the "young hoodlums" would be out to get you.

      *Rolls eyes*.

    • profile image

      Brasspost 8 years ago

      Younger generation? Ouch.

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      Gaby 8 years ago

      I just hate the fact that people get to do these things just to get some easy money. How ruin and miserable.

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      Rajesh 8 years ago

      Inspite of doing all this. Stop using debit card

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      Jaclyn 8 years ago

      'Don't underestimate the younger generation they will use technology to its fullest potential.'

      I resent that comment, as I am part of 'the younger generation' not all of us 'will use technology to its fullest potential' outside the boundaries of the law. Technology can be used in many ways and someone from 'the younger generation' might save your life one day, along with technology.