Aderemi Jacobs never forgets to take his bank debit cards with him because of its convenience whenever he needs to withdraw from the Automated Teller Machine. He will, however, not use the debit cards to pay for items on the Point of Sale terminals; he prefers to go to the ATM to first withdraw the needed amount and pay in cash for items he is buying.

While a lot of people use their debit cards for withdrawing cash from the ATM, records have shown that some users are still sceptical about using the device to pay for items on the PoS when they go shopping.

A security analyst/consultant, Don Okereke, says, while the debit card has its advantages, it is not totally safe to use it at shopping malls.

He says, “No technology or human invention is foolproof; hence, it is not 100 per cent safe to use debit cards at shopping malls. Criminals tend to be cyber or technology savvy and are somewhat a step ahead of ordinary citizens who are barely informed of the drawbacks of technology.”

He observes that there are instances of the ATM card skimming using sophisticated gadgets or handheld card readers to extract customers’ card information either on the PoS terminals or the ATM.

Card skimming devices, he says, are readily available and affordable these days.

The analyst says it is highly risky for a stranger to see the password of someone’s debit card when using it to make payment.

“Some folks have got what can be likened to a photographic memory. This mode of ATM skimming is called shoulder surfing,” says Okereke.

Www.debitsavvy.org gives some tips on how to use debit cards safely.

Keep your PIN a secret

You are advised to memorise your PIN, and never write it on your card or store it with your card. Do not let anyone else enter your PIN for you. Don’t give your PIN over the telephone. No company or person should ever ask for your PIN, not even your bank or credit union. If you use your debit card to make a purchase by phone, never disclose your PIN. Always keep your PIN a secret?)

Watch your email

Email is probably the most common method of identity theft and electronic fraud. Don’t provide your debit or credit card number, PIN or other personal information in response to an unsolicited email or online request. Electronic security pros recommend different PINs for different accounts. And it’s a good idea to change your PINs often.

Be smart online

The Web is a big place, and it is not getting any safer. So be careful when shopping online – whether you’re buying gifts or just adding a few features to your favourite multiplayer game persona. Look for secure transaction symbols, such as the little “lock” logo in the lower right-hand corner of your browser window and Web addresses that start with “https.” Log off from a site after you complete a purchase, and if you can’t log off, close your browser to protect your personal information.

Don’t wait

If your card is lost or stolen, report it to your financial institution right away. By notifying your bank or credit union immediately, you reduce the chance that your card will be used improperly. Even better, you limit your potential liability – translation: the money you actually lose – for unauthorised transactions by scammers or hackers.

Keep an eye on your money

Review account statements from your financial institution or credit union when you get them. Or better still, sign up for electronic banking to get secure online access to your account day or night. Report any problems or questions, including transactions you think may be unauthorised, right away. Again, quick action can limit misuse and save you money.

Protect your card

If the magnetic stripe on the back of your card is damaged or demagnetised, the “swipe and buy” process cannot work. So don’t expose your card to magnetic objects, dirt and grit, keys or other objects that can nick the stripe.

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