How people choose their ATM and debit card personal identification numbers (PINs) could predict how easily their accounts may be struck by fraud, according to a recent security study. That’s one reason why PULSE, one of the nation’s leading debit/ATM networks, recognizes ATM & Debit Card Safety Awareness Month each June.
“It’s no secret that weak PINs such as a birthday or repeating or sequential numbers contribute to card fraud,” said Eric Lillard, Director of Fraud Operations at PULSE. He cited a recent study by the Cambridge University Computer Laboratory in West Cambridge, U.K., showing that one out of every 11 wallets could contain cards with easily discovered PINs.
PULSE recommends that financial institutions help fight fraud by blacklisting the most easily guessed PINs and discouraging the use of birthdays, which are frequently found elsewhere in a stolen wallet, such as on a driver’s license.
“While financial institutions continue to combat card fraud and identity theft by investing in fraud mitigation, consumers can have a significant and direct impact on protecting their accounts,” Lillard said. “ATM & Debit Card Safety Awareness Month is a great time to change those PINs and take other steps to guard financial information and reduce the risk of becoming a victim of fraud.”
In 2011, PULSE processed more than 3.8 billion debit transactions, 16 percent more than in the previous year. As debit use continues to grow as a preferred payment method, so does the need to remain ever vigilant about possible debit card fraud.
About one in four cases of identity and financial fraud in 2011 involved debit or credit cards, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center. In addition, a Javelin Strategy & Research study found that one in 20 U.S. adults experienced an unauthorized card transaction during the past 12 months.
By following these tips, consumers can reduce their risks, while still realizing the benefits of debit cards and ATMs, as well as social media and smartphones:
Monitor your financial account statements
Many experts recommend reviewing accounts online daily so that any suspicious activity is spotted quickly. Switch from postal delivery of statements to online access or ensure that mailed statements are sent to locked boxes and not left available to fraudsters.
Protect your wallet, purse and PIN
Carry only what you need and avoid carrying items with private information such as your Social Security number. Don’t share your PIN with anyone. That means don’t write it down and don’t give it to a clerk or anyone else to enter for you.
Be extra alert at ATMs
Don’t use an ATM if it is in an unlit or hidden area. Block the keypad while entering your PIN so you can’t be observed. If an ATM looks phony or has a suspicious card reader that is loose or not part of the main body of the machine, do not use it.
Protect your online shopping
Update computer anti-virus software, anti-spyware and firewalls. New attacks come frequently, and your software provider will frequently send updates to stop them. Use only secure sites and network connections when shopping online.
Protect personal information online
Limit social media access to friends only and don’t “friend” people you don’t know. Fraudsters use personal information such as birth dates, family and pet names, high schools and birth cities to “verify” your identity.
Guard unauthorized use of mobile phones
Keep smartphone operating systems up-to-date. Use a password to gain access to your phone. Install apps that will enable remote deletion of your phone’s data if the phone or other device is lost or stolen.
Keep your financial house up-to-date
Follow your financial institution’s guidance on closing accounts, especially if you are a victim of fraud. Review your credit report annually (free by logging on to www.annualcreditreport.com or calling 877-322-8228, and free anytime if you are a victim of identity theft).
For more information about ATM and debit card safety, go to www.pulsenetwork.com/safety. Also, visit www.debitsavvy.org, a PULSE-sponsored consumer debit awareness website, for recommendations on protecting personal finances when using debit cards, including tips for fraud and identity theft protection. Follow DebitSavvy on Twitter @DebitSavvy.
PULSE, a Discover Financial Services (NYSE: DFS) company, is a leading debit/ATM network, serving more than 6,300 financial institutions across the United States. This includes 4,300 issuers with which PULSE has direct relationships and more than 2,000 additional issuers through agreements PULSE has with other debit networks. PULSE links cardholders with ATMs and POS terminals at retail locations nationwide. Through its global ATM network, PULSE provides worldwide cash access for Diners Club and Discover cardholders through more than 800,000 ATM locations in more than 100 countries. The company also is a source of electronic payments research and is committed to providing its participants with education on emerging products, services and trends in the payments industry. For more information, visit www.pulsenetwork.com or follow PULSE on Twitter @PULSENetwork.