Cybersecurity is more important than ever. On the heels of the big data security breach of the retail giant Target affecting more than 40 million customers, consumers need to be careful to protect their finances. How does your data get compromised and how can you stay safe?
Stealing your information can be as easy as getting cash out of the ATM. Criminals install technology called “skimmers” over the card reader at local ATMs and are able to see your pin number through a small camera over the keypad. Although it is hard to spot skimmer hardware with the untrained eye there are precautions you can take to avoid getting skimmed. If possible, get your cash directly from the bank teller. This eliminates the risk of third party access. When the bank is closed, try to only use ATMs that are located in restricted access foyers. These are safer than generic ATMs in your local convenience store. When you are using an ATM, cover the keypad with your hand so that your pin number will not be detected.
Additionally try to avoid swiping your debit card at these four places:
- Gas Stations – Gas stations are an easy and favored target for thieves. Just last year, four men were arrested for allegedly stealing $2.1 million through skimmers at gas stations in Texas, Tennessee and Georgia. While paying at the pump is faster and convenient, it could cost you more in the long run. Pay inside the gas station with your debit card or cash and if you must pay at the pump use a credit card instead. Credit card transactions are easier to reverse and you’re often only liable for $50 of fraudulent purchases.
- Restaurants – Getting your data stolen at a restaurant can be as easy as your server copying down the credit card number or as advanced as using a hand held skimmer. Even if employees are not stealing your information, many POS systems are unsafe and highly hackable. In 2011, sandwich hotspot Subway suffered from a $10 million loss to hackers in Romania. Whether you prefer popular chains or local eateries, try making your purchase with cash.
- Stores (Small Purchases) – When buying pricier items like a television or computer, it’s understandable to use your debit card. However, we have gotten so accustomed to swiping the plastic that we often use our card for every purchase even small ones like groceries. Protect yourself from theft by using cash whenever possible and as I mentioned before, if you don’t have cash use your credit card instead.
- Online – Shopping online is more popular than ever and with the advent of mobile devices, consumers are making more and more purchases online. To avoid getting your data compromised only make purchases on your secured home IP address and use a credit card instead of your debit card.
Hackers and skimmers can strike at any time, but by taking these precautions you can lower your risk of being targeted for a cybersecurity breach.