"Would you care for a side of debit card fraud with that?"
Restaurant servers don't ask that question, but they might as well with the standard practice of taking customers' debit cards to run them behind closed doors.
"Any place where the card is out of hand" can increase the chances of fraud, says McGoey. "The guy comes to your table, takes your card and disappears for a while, so he or she has privacy," giving the person the opportunity to copy your card information.
Even restaurants without sit-down service can present a threat. McNelley says using debit cards to order delivery can be risky because cashiers tend to keep customer payment information on file. That may make future orders more convenient, but small businesses rarely take the steps necessary to safeguard payment information, she says.
Overall, she says, regardless of whether you use your debit card at a small restaurant or a big-box store, the possibility of fraud is always there. She cites the example of Michaels Stores Inc., which saw its customers' debit card information stolen in May by debit card terminals doctored by thieves.
"Even if you do exercise caution … there are still the Michaels-type incidents that will happen," McNelley says.