Recently I had my personal bank account compromised after using my debit card at the gas pump. Instead of taking the time to check the card reader, as I customarily do, I just assumed everything was okay and casually swiped my card. Unfortunately, on two occasions, I found myself swiping into what is known as a credit card skimmer.

A credit card skimmer is a device that thieves attach to card readers in order to collect (steal) information in order to fraudulently use. This is an absolute inconvenience because they not only have access to your personal account, it also forces you to go through your bank’s fraud process. This could leave you without the stolen funds for up to 10 days or so, while having to go into a bank branch to request/access your accounts.

According to BankRate.com, there are 4 places you should beware of using a debit card at all costs:

  • Independent ATMs – You run the risk of skimmers. While skimmers can be found on bank ATMs, they’re less likely because there are often security cameras in place.
  • Pay at the pump – Skimmers aren’t the only danger to your wallet. The gas station will put a big hold on your account that could cause your checks to bounce. If you must pay with debit at gas station, go inside and pay at the cashier.
  • When you’re buying online – Credit card is a much better option. If you don’t get your merchandise, you can do a chargeback during a 60-day window.
  • At a restaurant – Because there is such high turnover at restaurants, you don’t want a dishonest employee to get hold of your digits.

Be careful when using your debit card, you could be exposing yourself to fraudulent activity. In order to avoid potential issues, consider using cash or a credit card to make purchases.