To help protect your money

As consumers we like to use the bank debit card because it is convenient. But there is a downside to this with the increase of fraud committed by organized crime with the help of new technology.

As we hand the bank card for a debit purchase, the crooked sales clerk will quickly swipe the card's magnetic strip through an electronic device that looks like a pager. The "pager" is kept hidden from view under the counter or in the crook's hand. One swipe through the unit will record the card's information. Then the crook gets your PIN, either by watching as you punch it in or on videotape through a pinhole camera installed in the ceiling and zoomed in on the debit machine keypad.

The crook can transfer the information, including the time it was recorded, from the device to a computer. Then the card is matched to the corresponding time on the videotape to get the PIN. Once the PIN is known, the sky's the limit for the crook to clean out your bank accounts.

According to a bank act, the bank will compensate your loss as long as you have proof after reporting the loss to the police. A way to tell if the camera is planted in the ceiling is to see if the debit keypad is fixed to a spot on the counter.

The following preventative tips are advised by police and banks: 1) Huddle over your PIN number so nobody can see it; and never give it to anyone, even your mother. 2) Change your PIN every three to six months. 3) Reduce the number of accounts accessible through your bank card.

The latest ATM scam involves thieves putting a thin, clear, rigid plastic "sleeve" into the bank slot. When you insert your card, the machine can't read the strip, so it keeps asking you to re-enter your PIN. Meanwhile someone behind watches as you tap in your number. Eventually you give up, thinking the machine has swallowed your card; and you walk away. The thieves then remove the plastic sleeve, complete with card, and empty your account.

To avoid this, run your finger along the card slot before you put your card in. The sleeve has a couple of tiny prongs that the thieves need to get the sleeve out of the slot, and you'll be able to feel them.

With thanks to Jack Nakamoto's Crime Watch News where this information was first published.