Protect Yourself from Credit Card Skimmers

Worried about your credit or debit card number being skimmed?

It seems like every other day, I read about another instance where a credit card skimmer has been found in yet another location…that distant gas pump, the out of the way ATM machine, the list goes on and on and on.  Sooner or later, it seems, we will all fall victim to a scam… be it a card skimmer, an unscrupulous online merchant, or even a data breach at your local grocery store.  Is there ever a safe way to pump gas?  To shop online? Even to eat out at a restaurant and still know that, when the waiter takes your credit card back to that shadowy place where they tally up the checks, you won’t log on to your bank account tomorrow morning and find that you’ve been cleaned out?

Actually, there are a number of ways to protect yourself and your money.  Obviously, you don’t want to use your credit or debit card any more than you absolutely have to – in fact, if you can avoid using your bank card anywhere except at your bank, you’re better off.  But, if you do that, what do you use instead?  How do you pay for your gas?  Your meal?  Your groceries?  Relax.  You don’t have to resort to using cash…there is a better way.

The simplest and probably the safest way there is to protect your finances is to use a prepaid credit card.  That’s right, a prepaid card.  Not only do you still have the flexibility of having a credit/debit card in your pocket or purse, but you also have the ability to limit the precise amount of funds available to spend on your card.  So, instead of exposing your entire bank account, you only expose one card, with a minimal amount of funds…thereby, severely limiting the amount of money any scammer can get in the event that your prepaid card information is skimmed.

And, in the event that the card information is skimmed?

Well, that’s where you’re really protected – most prepaid cards work just like credit or debit cards.  The scammer may temporarily get money, but the minute you call in, your liability is limited to a predetermined amount (usually $50.00 or so).  Believe me, it’s far easier to deal with this kind of financial situation than to have your bank account drained, only to report it, and then wait up to ten days for the bank to return your cash to your bank account.

(Prepaid cards are great for shopping online, too – once again, by using a prepaid card, you’re severely limiting the ability of anyone to access your funds.)

Is there any one prepaid card that is better than another?

To be honest, most prepaid cards offer you pretty much the same options…you apply for the card, it comes in the mail, and you can then transfer funds to the card.  Yes, there are some that offer certain benefits that may or may not interest you – the best way to find out?