How to avoid fraudulent charges on your debit or credit card

10:54 PM, Jan 26, 2012   |    comments
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Debit cards may look identical to credit cards, but there's one key difference.

With credit cards, users who spot fraudulent charges on their bill can simply decline their charges and not pay the bill. On the other hand, debit cards draw money directly from your checking account rather than from and intermediary such as a credit card company.

So while debit card fraud is always a possibility, being careful where you use it can help keep your checking account balance out of the hands of criminals. looked at debit card fraud across the country, and has compiled a list of the four riskiest places to use your debit card. Some of them are a little strange.

The first risky place is outdoor ATMs. Experts say outdoor ATMs present a perfect opportunity for thieves to skim users' debit cards.

Skimming is the practice of capturing a bank customer's card information by running it through a machine that reads the card's magnetic strip. Tose machines are often placed over the real card slots at ATMs and other card terminals.

You're better off using an ATM inside a retail outlet or other highly trafficked, well lit place.

The second risky place to use your debit card is on the web. says online is a key place where consumers should not use their debit cards because it's susceptible at so many points.

People could have unseen malware on their computer, or data taken in by the merchant can be compromised.

The last risky place for debit cards is in restaurants.

Any place where your card is out of hand can increase the chances of fraud. Even restaurants without sit-down service can present a threat.

Consumer advocates say using debit cards to order delivery can be risky because cashiers tend to keep customer payment information on file. That may make future orders more convenient, but small businesses rarely take the steps necessary to safeguard payment information.

For more information, check out

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