Why You Shouldn’t Use Your Debit Card at the Grocery Store

Last week I saw this video from Clark Howard. Apparently there is a new (maybe not new) scam going around.

Wishes. Dreams. Magic. Credit. Debt.

Criminals are using skimmers to grab debit and credit card off the card scanners at the grocery store. The criminals then take your card information and use it to steal your money.

If you have a debit card, this could mean your bank account is wiped out in a matter of a few hours. Unless your debit card has fraud protection you might want to consider using cash at the grocery store.

Has your debit card/ credit card number been stolen? Were you able to get your money back?

Photo credit: tom.arthur


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  1. I’ve never had this happen to me, but I used to work in a bank and can testify to the fact that once someone’s account is defrauded it is a very laborious and difficult task in getting the customer refunded. First you must file a police report, gather all the information you can about the fraud activity. With the report, you go to the bank, close your accounts, try to remember any transactions that may not have cleared yet, so that the clearing department can put them through your new account.

    If you have automatic deposits (paychecks, for example) or withdrawls (your mortgage, for example) you must do all the changes. You will get new cards, so if you have any debit cards saved online (like Amazon) you have to make all of THOSE changes, too. Then, if you have Paypal attached to your account – you will have to go through the laborious process of making that change as well.

    You get the idea – fraud on your accounts is a horrible thing!! So, yes, take all the precautions you can – and use cash when possible. It’s your safest bet!

  2. I’ve had my debit card stolen. I took a couple of weeks to get it completely straightened out but I eventually got my money back.

  3. Isn’t it a certain type of credit card or debit card? I forgot what it is called, but they are the ones you can use at the store where you don’t have to swipe them, you can just wave them over this thing, and it reads the code that has like radio waves coming from them. I don’t have any of those types of cards.

  4. My card number was stolen in November. I live in Texas, but the charge was for a Pizza Hut in Raleigh, NC. I immediately called my bank, who canceled the card right away. They do an investigation before giving the money back, but of course they knew by recent transactions alone that I certainly didn’t hop to NC for pizza. Lol

    They also told me the number had been manually entered. Things that make you go “Hmm..”. I am leery of using my card in restaurants now, or any other place that takes the card from site.

  5. Our credit card number was stolen when we were first married. Thankfully, we had a protection policy and our credit card company caught it quickly because the thief visited (adult) websites and paid huge bucks for (shocking) things that were atypical of our charging habits and we were not held responsible for the charges. The bill was over $3000 in what we can figure was a day or maybe two. It was a nightmare to deal with though. I became very very cautious with my credit card and want checkers to check my ID. I complain when they don’t and thank them when they do. We have now switched to only cash. And although if someone stole my purse I would lose that cash….it is so much easier to replace even a few hundred dollars than to fix the nightmare of a stolen card number.

  6. Oh and one time, I was looking at Walmart.com, but never actually purchased anything that day. A few days later, there was a charge on my card for walmart.com. We easily got the money returned to us and it was proven it was indeed fraud. 🙂 Not sure how they got my debit card information, other then hacking into what I was doing online. 🙁

  7. Anna, I would with that thieves have a way of reading the code from a short distance. :/

  8. Here is what I am referring to, this is the radio wave code that they use those skimmers for…


  9. That is so frustrating! I do appreciate that credit cards have more consumer protection than debit, but I still do use my debit card frequently.

    I have my money at two banks, and I have half my emergency fund at one bank and the other half at the other. That way, if one card is compromised and it’s frozen until I can get it sorted out, I won’t be totally out of luck.

  10. A couple of years ago, I used my card to purchase takeout dinner, and when I got home (about 45 minutes later) I got a call from the security department of my bank asking me if I knew anyone with access to my card in St. Augustine, Florida. (I live in Georgia) My bank’s records show I used my card to make a local purchase, and twenty minutes later someone used “my card” to buy something in St. Augustine at Wal-Mart ($630.00) and then a couple minutes later they spent another $60 at the same store.

    This raised a red flag with the bank, because geographically, I live about two hours from St. Augustine, and unless I had given my access (or perhaps my husband was traveling) I couldn’t have made the purchases. When I asked about it, they told me the purchases had been made “in person” and that they used a card. I don’t use the new type of card, but there are untrustworthy people working at many places…all they need is a card reader.

    This happened on a Saturday night, and the bank immediately deleted that card, AND I had my money back in my account by Tuesday or Wednesday. I was impressed by the fact that the bank is monitoring my account even on a weekend night and that they called ME, instead of us not finding out until we had been wiped out, and then calling the bank to see what was going on….we were very lucky.

    Also, our bank representative told me that if a cashier ever asks you “credit, or debit”? Always tell them “credit” because you have to sign a receipt rather than enter your pin number.

    And if you’re still reading this (LOL) sorry I wrote a book. 🙂

  11. Oh, and this is something a lot of people may not know…I have a friend in securities with the federal government and he told me that anytime we go to a hotel that uses the “card” keys, that you should always take those with you when you leave and not turn them back over to the desk. He said when you check in and they run your card and then they swipe your card key, they put all your information on that card key and when you check out they wipe it clean to use for the next guest…however; if there is one untrustworthy employee there with a card reader, just like that, they have your bank account info, including your name and address!!

  12. I’ve had my information compromised several times. Each time it was traced back to one store I shop at only a few times a year, so now I only use cash there. I have Bank of America, and they were great about it. Money was back into my account within a day or two.

  13. I take note of a couple of things: I do NOT own a “debit” card at all — I refuse to let the Bank issue me one; (ie. an ATM card w/a visa/mc logo) for the simple reason that they are so easy to scam/skim and when you use it to pay, even if you say “run it as a credit card”–you get zero protections that you get if you use a regular credit card. Also, when you really think about it–aren’t Debit Cards used so much because we are afraid that we’re not disciplined enough to pay off a ‘regular’ credit card in full each month. If you’re a wise consumer and shop for the right credit card for you — you actually get plenty of cash rewards. My husband and I have earned cash for over 3 years now because we use our CC for almost every single penny we spend.

  14. Ahhh. Just another reason I love cash. 🙂

  15. I work for a financial svcs company and I bank with them as well. No one is immune…we’ve had our information compromised a few times actually. One of the easiest ways to get your card information “hacked” is by using either a non secure internet connection, eg: your neighbors have their WiFi set up with no passcode so you “borrow” it and pay for stuff…or you’re sitting at Starbucks using theirs and enter in your credit card number to buy stuff.

    Or, storing the credit card information on devices with limited security such as iPad’s. Many financial institutions are reccomending that you stop using things such as iPads for financial transactions because their security is so weak.

    Our bank reimburses unauthorized debit card charges (and others do as well, B of A, Chase, etc), but they are by no means required to. Just throwing out my experiences! 🙂

  16. That is so scary!! I hadn’t heard of it being done at grocery stores yet. I’ve heard of your # being stolen from skimmers after being swiped at atm’s, gas stations, even restaurants. Another good reason to use cash!!

  17. Yes! Thanksgiving 2006, to be exact. Well, before that, actually…when we went out to a Mexican Restaurant, we used our debit card and someone swipped the info, sent it down to Mexico where someone then put it on a new card and had a very fun Black Friday weekend. All total, they took over 20k (note: we did NOT have that much in there, this was back when you could overlap purchases super easily like that) and daily limit. We didn’t even know about this until the following Tuesday when everything started coming in. Fortunately, we could easily prove we were not in Mexico (I had still made purchases here in town on my card). We have since switched to USAA, only use our credit card (which has a low limit) and I have alerts set up on all purchases over $100 on either card. I have refused to get rid of our credit card for this exact reason. It’s just peace of mind for me.

  18. and NO daily limit. Sorry.

    I do want to be clear. I’m not picking on the Mexican Restaurant. It was later proven to be where quite a few people had their cards compromised.

  19. we actually started using our debit card so we wouldn’t have to worry about writing checks. Also if you have two people using the same account and in different places without the ability to have contact, ex: the military, it is a great way to stay on top of your balance. We do not like credit cards cause I don’t like to have to owe anyone. A debit card transaction is taken out of my bank account, money that is mine and I’m not borrowing from anyone, which is what a credit card is doing borrowing money from someone else to pay for something. So I guess I’m the opposite of Kathy, lol!!!!!

  20. Last year our debit card information was stolen. What was most interesting in our case was that we do not have a Visa/MC logo on it. It is a regular old ATM card that we can use for POS (point of sale, i.e. grocery store/gas/walmart) if we enter our pin. We live in Iowa and our card was used in California. They took the max twice before we found out (luckily, we have a $200 purchase limit per day). I just thought that I would share our story because it seems that most people (us included) assume that you have to have the credit logo on your card for it to be used by theives. In our case, they stole both OUR pin with OUR card number and used the information to take money out, in person, at an ATM machine. Our bank was even surprised that our card number was stolen since we do not have the Visa/MC logo. Just something to think about.

    P.S. We were reimbursed for the fraudulent purchases.

  21. I just had my card information stolen at a Walmart. I went to the nursery section and the guy at the cash register was not happy that his machine was only working 80 percent of the time. That was my last transaction, and 2 days later when my paycheck hit the account who ever stole the information was randomly trying to make transactions. My bank called me after a 1200.00 transaction was denied. Unfortunately 410.00 transaction went through and there went my paycheck. Walmart. Nothing is sacred.

  22. Actually this has happened to me 3 times as a Chase banking customer, just today June 15th 2012 I received texts and phone calls from chase stating my debit card number may have been compromised, wtf!!!!! I will be going back to using cash guess I have to pull out the big wallet to hold cash again.

    Because this is absolutely ridiculous. Be careful at gas stations, parking lots and Starbucks yes the 2nd incident came from me using my debit card at a starbucks those young kids working there criminals!!!!!

  23. This just happened to me after shopping at the local Key Food. 3 debit card transactions posted to my account which I did not make… in fact, I physically COULD NOT have made them because after shopping at Key Food I went camping over an hour away from the city. Regardless of the fact that I used my debit card while camping for 2 days, CHASE BANK would not refund my money, nor even take my fraud claim seriously because “i still had the card in my possession” and “i have been using it”.

    This also happened to my mother once while shopping at Macy’s (so it’s not just grocery stores either), but her bank helped her solve the problem and refunded her money.

    It seems to me that it’s not safe to use debit cards anywhere, even if you have fraud protection on your card. Judging from the conversation I had with the claims representative at Chase, they don’t even recognize this type of fraud. How awful!

  24. It was very intersting reading all your stories because i had this happen to me this morning. I got a text from chase asking if i made a $100 purchase at a sevice station in Texas and i live in California never been to Texas. I immediatley contacted them told them no and they cancelled my card and it is no longer active. From speaking with the fraud unit they caught it quick because no other purchases where made. I had to open a claim so i can get the refund. I’m just glad they contacted me ASAP at 5:00 a.m. this morning. Now im just thinking about only using cash. It’s scary.

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