The biggest risk associated with ATM or debit cards is identity theft done by way of stolen PINs. To access your bank accounts, identify thieves typically have several ways of obtaining your PIN.
One way that an identity thief can obtain your PIN is if you write down your PIN and keep it together with your ATM or debit card. Never have your PIN and debit card in the same place. If someone steals your pocketbook or wallet, he will be able to use your ATM or debit card. An ATM or debit card is useless unless the PIN is also in the thief's possession. With the combination of your card and PIN, the thief would be able to use your accounts as easily as you could.
Another way that an identity thief can obtain your PIN is by watching you use your ATM or debit card or by overhearing you give your personal information. In reality, you are at the greatest risk of exposing your PIN when you are in a crowded place. It is very difficult to safeguard your PIN when people are standing very close to the ATM you are using or when you have to enter your PIN by a cash register.
Thieves get very close to you and "shoulder surf" as they watch you input your PIN into the machine. Of course, even if you trust the person you give your PIN to, is everybody near you who might overhear your conversation also as trustworthy?
Keep in mind that when a thief obtains your ATM or debit card's PIN, his next step is to try to steal your ATM or debit card from you. If a thief obtains your PIN, he is likely to try force in order to get the ATM or debit card. You need to be careful because a thief watching you enter your PIN or hearing you give your PIN could cause you physical injuries.
The third way that identity thieves obtain PINs is rather technical in nature. The police refer to this type of ATM or debit card theft as "skimming." Identity thieves use a magnetic strip card reader or a keyboard logging device and attach it to an ATM machine. These devices capture your ATM or debit card; they are very advanced, look very much like a regular card swiping device and will fool most people.
Unsuspecting folk will swipe their ATM or debit cards in these devices, thinking that they are using the real thing. Now that the thieves have your personal information, they won't need your ATM or debit card. They will make a "new" card which will look similar to your card.
Another skimming technique is done at the store, when you are the cashier. This method is much more difficult to do, but it does happen. This is when the cashier swipes your ATM or debit card a second time. You can protect yourself from this type of ATM or credit card identity theft by remaining alert to your surroundings and the things that are happening.
As long as you are able to safeguard your PIN, you should be able to protect you debit card. As soon as you suspect that your PIN has been compromised or if you misplace your card or even suspect that it has been stolen, contact your bank immediately. Your bank will issue you a new ATM or debit card and you can choose a new PIN.