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Why you should never use your debit card at a gas station

This morning on the way to work, I was listening to the Todd and Jayde morning show. One of members of the show, Annie, talked about how she believes that she was a victim of debit card skimming at a gas station. The result was that someone tried to steal $500 from her account and she couldn't access any of her accounts online until the bank finishes investigating her case. Listening to the story, I had to look into the issue further myself and my conclusion is that you should NEVER use your debit card at a gas station. Do it the old fashioned way if you want that cash price, you have to use real cash over the debit card. Here's why.

Skimming is a real problem and only getting worse

Last year Wisconsin issued a consumer alert warning that "skimmers" have been found at numerous gas stations across the state. A quick Google search reveals this happening in many other states nationwide. There are two types of skimmers, internal and external, but they both attempt to steal your card number and record your pin.

Why are gas stations a popular target? The payment terminals have minimal supervision so it's pretty easy for someone to put a skimming device on without detection. With the potential for fraud in pay-at-the-pump transactions, it makes sense to go with cash or credit the next time you fill up.

"A consumer may likely have no indication that they used an altered dispenser until they find a discrepancy on their bank statements," said Frank Frassetto, Division Administrator of Trade and Consumer Protection.

A study from FICO Card Alert Services reported a 70 percent increase in the number of debit cards that were compromised in 2016 at ATMs and at card readers used by merchants. Therefore this isn't a problem that is going away.

The onus is on you

Credit cards generally provide you with more protection than debits cards. For credit cards, if your account number is stolen, not your physical card, you are not responsible for unauthorized charges under Federal Law. However, with debit cards, you must to spot the fraud and report it in short order. For debit cards, if your card and PIN have not been lost or stolen, you are not responsible for unauthorized charges under Federal Law if you report it within 60 days after your statement is sent to you. If an unauthorized charge goes unreported for more than 60 days, your money and future charges by the same person could be lost. If you lose your debit card or PIN, the time to report is usually much shorter (often 2 business days in order to limit your liability to no more than $50).

Given this scenario, it is unsurprising that banks have been replacing credit cards with newer, more secure chip cards because it is their potential liability; however, with debit cards, it is likely you have the old regular cards because the onus is on you.

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About the Author: Chris Wang

Chris Wang

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