Stealing PINs at gas stations
Gas stations are another danger zone for debit card use.
"You go to a gas station and you stick your debit card in there and you swipe it through a machine," Abagnale says. "I'm sitting across the street with a laptop and an antenna. I put a skimmer in there, and I'm picking up all the information. Before you even get home, I've debited your account."
Gas station payment terminals have many of the characteristics card fraudsters love, Conroy says.
"In a gas station, where you do have a whole bunch of pay-at-the-pump kinds of things and minimal supervision, it's pretty easy for a bad guy to put a skimming device on and put a little pinpoint camera there and compromise debit cards that way," Conroy says. Thieves often use small cameras to capture footage of debit card users entering their personal identification number, or PIN, so they can have free access to their money.
She says that even if the thief doesn't manage to get your debit card PIN from such a device, he still may be able to duplicate the card's magnetic strip and use it for "sign and swipe" Visa or MasterCard transactions.
With the high potential for fraud in pay-at-the-pump debit transactions, it might make sense to use an alternative such as cash or credit cards the next time you fill up.