Here are some proven ways to protect your debit card from fraudulent activity and safeguard your hard-earned cash.

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Debit card fraud is on the rise. In 2020, a quarter of debit card users reported a fraudulent incident, a significant increase from 17% in 2018. Over 12% of consumer cards were lost or stolen, while 13% lost money through fraudulent charges.

Reviewing your account transactions is especially important to detect and dispute fraudulent charges as soon as possible. Check with your bank or credit union to learn about their policies.

Here are some proven ways to protect your debit card from fraudulent activity and safeguard your hard-earned cash.

1. Be Careful When Saving Your Card Info Online

Be wary of any prompts asking you to save your card information for future use when shopping online. While saving your debit card info on a merchant's store makes for easy checkouts, it could expose you to fraud and identity theft. If you choose to save your card info for future purposes, do so with a legitimate merchant or mobile wallet.

Cybercriminals spend endless lengths of time stalking online stores looking for security vulnerabilities. Once they break into the system, they can access your personal information and card details. Besides losing your money, you may become an identity theft victim, too.

2. Cover Up Your Security Code

Blacking out the Card Verification Value 2 (CVV2), the 3-digit security at the back of the card helps protect against online fraud. CVV2 is designed to facilitate online transactions in places where you can't physically present the card. Since the code is meant solely for online shopping, you have no reason to keep it visible out in public.

Memorize the CVV code and save it in your password manager, then scratch it off the card. A nail file can remove most of the marking then blackout the rest with a permanent marker. If you ever lose or misplace the card, no one can use it to shop online.

3. Don't Sign Up for Free Trials

Ideally, free trials are a great way to test a product or service without any obligation to buy. However, dishonest merchants are using free trials to lure unsuspecting buyers into subscription traps. These merchants run ads on social media, offering a chance to try out new products free of charge.

However, their motivation is tricking you into providing your card details by asking you to pay a small fee to cover shipping and handling. Once they have your payment details, they use the continuous payment authority to charge you an ongoing monthly subscription.

Most people won't notice the fraudulent charges until it's too late. And those who do must jump through hoops to cancel the charges and get their money back.

4. Be Wary of Phishing Attempts

Scammers use misleading texts and emails to trick people into revealing their personal information. Phishing texts and emails mimic communication from reliable companies that you know and trust. They may seem like they're from your bank, credit card company, or an online store.

Clicking on the attached links directs you to a fake website where hackers can collect your passwords, Social Security Number (SSN), and other financial information. Sometimes clicking the links installs malware that captures the information from your devices, too.

Securing your debit card with multi-factor authentication is one way that helps avoid phishing attempts.

5. Watch for Skimmers

Skimmers are small malicious card readers hidden within compromised card readers to harvest data from people swiping their cards. They're often attached to payment terminals and ATMs to steal data from the card's magnetic strip. Criminals use the stolen card information to clone your debit card.

Check near the speakers, at the top of the ATM, the side of the screen, and the card reader for signs of tampering. If something feels off, such as lacking a blinking light, don't use the ATM. Checking card readers for subtle or obvious anomalies also helps to identify tampering and avoid skimmers.

6. Never Share Your Digital Banking Login Information

Online hackers use phishing emails, texts, and other tactics to trick users into disclosing the login credentials for their digital banking accounts. The criminals can then change passwords, lock you out of your account, or even transfer money to another account.

Protect yourself by creating strong passwords of random characters that contain upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. It's best to use different passwords for each account and avoid using the same password for multiple accounts. You should also never share this information with any other party since you never know where it might end up.

Keep in mind that legitimate businesses won't ask for your username and password credentials. You should immediately be suspicious if anyone asks for your password.

When clicking links in online banking messages or your email, don't visit the site directly from the message. Instead, enter the URL in your browser's address bar manually to ensure it's secure before entering your login information.

7. Only Shop on Secure Websites

Most people hardly pay attention to the web address bar or the URL when shopping online, and scammers capitalize on this oversight to create scam websites and conduct fraud. Scam sites have one objective: to capture user information, such as card details, SSNs, email addresses, passwords, and more. Scam websites mimic the sites of known and trusted brands and eCommerce stores down to the brand colors.

Many of these sites use emotional manipulation to get you to log into your account so they can grab your login credentials. Hackers can then log into the legitimate store and steal your financial information saved there with your credentials.

Avoid logging into online financial accounts using a public unsecured WiFi connection. Hackers can easily access your device and capture your credentials and other private information.

8. Be Wary of Internet Pop-Ups

Banking and retail sites often use pop-ups to deliver important information, such as payment confirmations. But advertisers who buy ads on websites like Facebook and TikTok may be using the pop-up to collect a user's login credentials. These are especially tricky to decipher because they look like a legitimate site. But, instead, they send all of your information to the hacker behind the scam site.

Avoiding these phishing sites is easy. Just close the pop-up window. If you see a pop-up after inputting your debit card information, it may be a phishing attempt designed to capture your login credentials.

Signing up for transaction alerts—through text or email—is among the most efficient ways to combat debit card fraud. A purchase alert notifies you whenever your card is charged for a purchase, while an account balance change alert notifies you when your account balance reaches a certain threshold.