People & Money

Don’t Lose Your Money to Mr. Tunez: 10 Ways to Safeguard Your Debit Card

A few days ago, a very disgruntled mother walked into her bank to complain about the series of debit alerts she had been receiving – payments made to a certain Mr. Tunez. She swore that she didn’t know and had never met or done business with any Tunez, man or woman. The surprised bank officials asked for the receipts of such transactions and realised she had been receiving debit alerts for iTunes gift card purchases made using her debit card info. On further investigation, they got to realise her kids had her debit card info and were using it to buy iTunes gift cards on the apple store. She was lucky the fraudsters were her own kids as the account could have been emptied if her card details had gotten into the hands of the wrong people.

Convenience is the major attraction of the E-transaction, which has made it very popular for payment during all sorts of transactions. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Automated Teller Machines from selected banks across the country recorded transactions valued at N39.15 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2018. The report also said that N39.15 trillion was derived from 616,528,697 transactions recorded as data on Electronic Payment Channels for online transactions during that period.

This increased dependence on debit cards has created various avenues for fraudsters to steal people’s card information both online and offline. The iTunes gift card is one such avenue and it is more convenient for them than Western Union – the codes are hard to trace and once purchased can be resold for money. They have robbed a lot of people of their hard-earned money by purchasing iTunes gift cards using the debit card details of unsuspecting victims. Your card details can also be used to make purchases on sites like Amazon, PayPal, ASOS, Netflix and many more.

10 ways to safeguard your debit card:

  1. Always ensure an e-commerce site is secure before inputting your card details. (The padlock icon just before the URL symbolizes that the site is legitimate, safe and secure).
  2. Never link the card you use for transactions e.g. shopping online, Uber account, subscriptions etc. to the main account where you keep a lot of your money. Use a special-purpose debit card.
  3. Don’t share your pin with anyone (that’s why it’s called a Personal Identification Number) or write it down anywhere. You should memorize it. Also, make sure to change your pin and password every few months.
  4. Use a credit card for online transactions. A fraudulent card transaction takes more time for a bank to process and would lead to a delay in cash removal from your account.
  5. Avoid using your debit card in small corner shops or restaurants when you travel abroad. Some of them have staff who collect bank details to use for fraud.
  6. Never use a free Wi-Fi account that doesn’t have a password to do any transaction either to pay bills, shop online or even just to check your account balance.
  7. Create a strong security profile using strong security questions. Using your pet’s name or your mother’s maiden name isn’t safe enough: people who know you can easily predict this. The answers don’t have to be true; they just have to be consistent.
  8. Report immediately to your bank if you lose your card or suspect it has been stolen. Make sure to cancel the missing card
  9. Never ever discuss anything about your account on telephone. Not even with the CBN Governor. Fraudsters try two tricks to hijack your account:

a). They obtain your bank account and phone numbers and input into a digital banking app. Then they call you pretending to be officials from your bank, asking you to give them the one time password you have just received so they could fix a problem e.g to activate your account which the bank has deactivated in error. They will access your account and clear out your money. It’s always a trap – bank officials are not allowed and will never ask for your password. If anyone calls you claiming he or she is from your bank, walk into a branch to sort things out rather than discuss on the telephone. Even if it’s a weekend, all banks have lines you can call to discuss fraud or the security of your account.

b). In a variation of the above trick, the fraudster calls asking you for the number of your debit card and the CVV number ( the 3 digit number at the back of your card) so they could unblock the card. Both tricks rely on obtaining information about you and your account and sharing this at the start of the call, so you are convinced it’s really someone from your bank calling. Sometimes the information is obtained from registers for cash deposits which require depositors’ names and telephone numbers – they take pictures of some pages. Corrupt bank staff also share customer details. The good news is that they ultimately need to trick you to be able to get their hands on your cash. Bank officials don’t have and should never be given passwords or any security detail such as the CVV number. Not even the CBN Governor.

10. Don’t procrastinate. Initiate these safety precautions immediately. Many people who fall victim to debit card fraud knew what to do to safeguard their accounts, but they kept putting off doing it.

The sums that our bank customer lost to Mr. Tunez are quite negligible. If you are not careful, your debit card could provide a window for fraudsters to clear quite large sums from your account. You can never be too careful.

Abimbola Agboluaje

Abimbola is Managing Director of WNT Capitas . He consults on strategic communications and investment risk.

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