Debit and credit cards can be extremely convenient. When you are short on cash, swiping one of these cards is an efficient way to do business, buy groceries, or shop online. However, these cards should not be used anywhere. Swiping a debit card at the wrong place can lead you to become a victim of identity theft. These are a few of the most dangerous places to swipe your debit card, and should be avoided.
Unfortunately, many Americans make the mistake of swiping their credit or debit cards at gas stations. Little do they know, this is a risky proposition. Throughout the country, police and other law enforcement officials have found skimmers attached to ATMs and gas pumps. Skimmers are devices that swipe your credit card information when you swipe your card. A credit card thief will leave a skimmer at a gas station, wait for customers to swipe their cards, and come back later and steal their information.
If you insist on using a credit card at a gas station, there are a few simple tips to reduce your risk of credit card fraud. Choosing an ATM in an area frequently visited and visible to a clerk may reduce your risk, since thieves are less likely to attach skimmer devices under the watchful eye of a gas station attendant. Before you swipe your card, also wiggle the card reader to make sure there is not a skimmer device attached to it, and look for glue or plastic overlays on the keypad. If anything looks out of the ordinary, do not use this machine and report it immediately to the gas station attendant.
The Internet can also be a dangerous place to give out your credit or debit card information. While many sites, such as Amazon.com are relatively safe, you should not give out this information on just any website. Make sure a website is secure before you purchase items from it. Typically, if the website is relatively well known and a strong company, your information is safer. Using your credit card to purchase something from an unknown retail from a foreign country is a much riskier proposition.
Using credit or debit cards should also be avoided when interacting with street vendors. While it may seem convenient to use one of these cards, you do not know the reputation of these street vendors, so you are putting yourself at risk. A street vendor could easily create duplicates of your card, and turn one transaction into several. If you do not check carefully, you may wind up with strange bills on your credit card for items that you did not pay for!
Over the phone
While technically you are not swiping your card, giving out a credit or debit card number over the phone is also dangerous. You do not know exactly who you are talking to, and they may write down your number and save it for their own personal use at a later date. Be suspicious of any company that calls you and asks for such sensitive information; there is a good chance that you are being scammed.
These are just a few of the most dangerous places to give out your credit or debit card information. It is important to use common sense and be vigilant to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft and losing your hard-earned savings.