With the economy in trouble, criminals are targeting debit cards. They steal your PIN code-then steal your money. Consumer Reports tells you how to protect yourself.
Consumer Reports says the equipment thieves need to copy your debit-card information is available on line.
"Criminals secretly install a device called a "skimmer" on your ATM machine." said Consumer Reports Tobie Stanger.
Thieves then use the stolen information to create a new card.
Attorney John Campbell, who helps victims of bank-card fraud, says that can lead to disaster.
"Your whole account could be wiped out, including money you had set aside for your mortgage, for you car payment, for other payment," said Campbell.
Campbell says you're most vulnerable at places like gas stations, convenience stores, and airports where it's easier to install skimmers.
But even at your bank's ATM, check to make sure nothing looks loose or out of place.
Fortunately, there is one simple thing you can do to get better protection.
"When you're making a purchase with your bank card, press "credit" not "debit." said Stanger.
The money is still deducted like a debit, but you don't use your PIN code, and so a criminal can't steal it.
And by using the "credit" option, in most cases you'll only be responsible for $50 of any loss.
Consumer Reports says another important way to protect against debit-card theft--check your account frequently on line.
That way you can spot any suspicious activity right away.