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Debit card fraud: Be aware this holiday season

Earlier this month, 200-plus people in south-central Iowa had money stolen from their bank accounts

Published: Monday, Nov. 18, 2013 11:34 a.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Nov. 18, 2013 11:54 a.m. CDT

Earlier this month, more than 200 people in south-central Iowa had money stolen from their bank accounts via debit card fraud — a rapidly-growing problem across the United States affecting 22 million people last year.

Sarah Young, electronic banking officer at First National Bank (FNB) in Creston, said the widespread debit card fraud earlier this month affected about 3 percent of FNB cardholders. Meanwhile, Iowa State Savings Bank (ISSB) in Creston reported 1 percent affected.

"We have not been officially notified where the breach occurred,” Young said.

However, a story that aired last week by WGEM news in Quincy, Ill., links debt card fraud happening earlier this month at three gaming boats including Lakeside Casino in Osceola, St. Jo Frontier Casino in St. Joseph, Mo., and Mark Twain Casino in La Grange, Mo.

WGEM reports the company that processes all three boats debit cards had a security breach and that’s where debit card numbers were compromised.

Be aware

Young said all money stolen from their cardholders via debit card fraud was credited back within five business days or less.

“All of our cardholders have zero-fraud liability,” Young said.

Theresa Huck, compliance officer at ISSB, said many times when debit card fraud occurs it’s out of your control because the business where you used the card at was hacked and your account information has been taken.

On rare occasions Huck said fraud occurs when the processor — the link between the merchant and bank — has been hacked.

Huck said you should be aware of several areas — in your control — whereby you can avoid debit card fraud.

“In general, don’t let your debit card out of your sight,” she said. “That includes restaurants. Go to the register to pay as there are even handheld skimmers out there and with one swipe of your card they can record card data.”

Card information obtained by the skimmer is then used to duplicate cards that are used to make unauthorized purchases and cash withdrawals.

Huck also warns to be careful at stand-alone ATM — like at convenience stores — because fraudsters know those ATM are not under the constant watch of bank associates allowing them to easily install a skimmer.

Other areas to be aware of are:

• Payment terminals at gas stations because they are easy locations for card skimmers too — especially at self-service pumps.

• Public Wi-Fi at coffee shops, hotels and airports because cyber-threats may be lurking ready to steal your debit card information when making purchases. They will steal it as you enter it during checkout.

“Be very careful with online purchases, especially with holiday shopping season coming up,” Huck said. “Make sure it’s a reputable business you feel comfortable with making online purchases with.”

Huck recommends checking your account daily, if possible, and if fraud occurs report it to your bank immediately.

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