Wednesday, September 29, 2010

debit cards and phishing

Cliff and I live between two small towns; there's a bank in each town, and we've used both at different times.  Several years ago we switched because the larger of the two banks had online services, while the smaller did not, and I was told they probably never would.  I'm a little sloppy with my bookkeeping, and it really helps me keep my affairs in order if I can check my figures with the bank periodically.  
When we switched banks, I applied for debit cards.  After a couple of embarrassing failured attempts to use them (PIN numbers not accepted while a line of folks stood impatiently waiting for us to finish our business), Cliff and I both gave up and went back to using checks.   
Because Cliff is looking at retirement in a few months, I'm trying to avoid using credit cards altogether; so I called the bank, told a lady my situation, and she ordered replacement cards for us.  Here's hoping we have better luck with them this time.  
So after talking to the bank and ordering my debit cards, I did a little online research and found out there are a lot of situations where you shouldn't use a debit card because a credit card is safer.  Most of those situations are the very things for which I wanted it!  
Gasoline, for instance.  The main thing for which Cliff uses a credit card... usually the only thing, actually...  is to buy gasoline for the car and motorcycle, and diesel for the tractors.  I was really anxious to be able to stop using credit cards for this, and now I find out it isn't a good idea.  
After the big credit card bill we wracked up on our little Arkansas adventure in July, I was looking forward to using a debit card next time, paying as we go.  If we don't have the money, we don't go.  Makes perfect sense, right?  Ah, but hotels are another place one should not use a debit card because they often put a hold on more money than the cost of your stay, in case you leave damages behind.  
And then there are online purchases; because a debit card is linked directly to your bank account, it would give somebody an opportunity to hack into your money.  Ditto for restaurants, because there are too many people handling your card out of your sight.  Credit cards are advised for these situations.  
So where can I use my debit card safely?  Walmart and grocery stores, evidently.  But I pay cash from my Dave Ramsey envelopes at those places.  It's the same for pet expenses and clothing and co-pays at doctor's offices and prescriptions:  Cash from envelopes.  If you missed the above link with all this information, click HERE.    
Now that I've already ordered my debit cards, I realize I probably should do as my friend Lona does:  Use one credit card that gives rewards for purchases (air miles, cash, etc.) and pay the bill in full every month.  
Live and learn.   
Speaking of online dangers, I got an email yesterday that appeared to be from Chase, which is a credit card Cliff uses for gasoline.  In part, it said, "This message has been sent to you from Chase Bank Online because we have noticed invalid login attempts into your account, due to this we are temporarily limiting and restricting your account access until we confirm your identity."  
 Beneath that was a link I was supposed to click to "confirm my identity".  
"If your account information is not updated within 48 hours then your ability to access your account will become restricted." 
The technique is known as "phishing".  This ain't my first rodeo, so I recognized it immediately and forwarded it to Chase.  They replied to confirm my hunch that the email was fraudulent.  Beware, folks.  Don't take for granted that just because an email appears to have been sent by your bank or your credit card company, it's OK.


  1. A couple of years ago someone used my Visa/Debit card to go buy online dating services. After spending about 800 bucks, that person I guess got lucky and purchased a plane ticket to Chicago. The total came to 1,500 plus dollars. Luckily I check my account almost daily and I noticed the purchases right away. I have a great relationship with my bank and drove there the next day. They looked at my transactions and said that it didn't even look like anything that I would purchase. Within 24 hours, the money was back in my account.
    My advice is, NEVER, NEVER wait for you statement to come in the mail. Go to their website daily to see what's going on in your account!!

  2. Thanks for all the info this morning. I guess we just cannot be safe enough these days. Rather than use a Credit card I'd rather pay cash. I found out in the past that they can easily get out of control because it is too easy to use them in emergencies. I no longer have extra cash to pay big bills so I opt out and will not have one.

  3. You are a wise woman Donna. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Donna, before deciding against using a debit card, read what Dave Ramsey has to say about them. He believes they are as safe as credit cards. They are backed by the same credit card companies usually. We use our debit card for every single purchase just about and we have never had a problem. There will always be that "what if" factor. Credit card numbers are just as easily stolen. Debit cards usually offer the same kind of protection. You should definitely be wary but also talk to your bank about it.


  5. nerves057:55 AM

    I just had an issue with my debit card. There are folks out there that somehow or another are able to get your card number and pin number from the outside gas pumps, which i used to use all the time. Specificly at one station. They withdrew $300.00 from my account. It was withdrew from USA Bank in CA. With my card number and pin. So now i will not use my card at a gas pump anymore. It's scary that this type of thing happens. I was lucky my bank was able to see my card had been compromised and sent me another and gave me back my money i lost. But these folks can just bleed you dry. Such a shame. If it hadn't been for onlines services i wouldn't have noticed it as soon as i did. I hate thief’s....grrrr

  6. Good points, all of them. A couple of weeks ago someone used our farm account debit card to buy an expensive computer outfit online (to the tune of $1500). Well... the nerve. We were able to track some good, detailed info on it. And also get the "order" stopped before it completely posted at the bank. I am following up big time and our local sheriff's dept is assisting. These criminals messed with the wrong people - I don't just 'let things go' :) The question is, how did it happen in the first place? This card has extremely limited use... but it's proof that it can happen, even when you're careful! -Tammy

  7. Anonymous12:12 PM

    Thankfully, no one wants my identity.
    But then, almost everyone seems to want someone else's money.~Mary

  8. This was very helpful information Donna. I didn't realize some of these tips. Thank you so much for sharing!!


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