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Here at TPG, it’s no secret that we’re big fans of using our credit cards for all possible purchases, and paying them off in full each month. However, we understand that many people still use debit cards for most transactions for various reasons: not everyone feels comfortable with the “limitless” spending potential on credit cards, while past credit history may prevent others from applying for them altogether.

But with personal data breaches and account hacks becoming ever more prevalent, debit cards are also being compromised in increasingly sophisticated ways. A TPG reader recently shared a sad screenshot from his neighborhood watch group’s message board: 

Knock on wood, this never happens to any of us. But when a thief gets a hold of your credit card, either in person or online, the bank is able to trace the transaction and work with the merchant to get your money back if the unauthorized transaction is promptly reported. On the other hand, debit cards are the plastic portal to all the money in your checking account – and possibly more. Many times when people lose their debit cards, they also lose their wallets holding IDs and other identifying documents. An enterprising scammer who may also have your PIN from illegally installing a keylog on an ATM terminal can easily wipe out your bank account in minutes, leaving no trace and no way for the bank to help you retrieve your hard-earned money.

Of course, debit card fraud can happen to anyone, including seasoned travelers who use credit cards around the world unless absolutely necessary. (We strongly recommend only using ATMs that are inside of or attached to a bank, as these are the most securely managed and thus least likely to be tampered with.) But people who use debit cards extensively are far more at risk, if only for statistical reasons: The more times you use your card, the more opportunities for unscrupulous people to access your financial information.

As holiday shopping season continues, consider this your friendly reminder to double- and triple-check your accounts for unfamiliar activity.

Featured photo by Shutterstock. 

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