Man using a street ATM machine and withdrawing money, close up photo

Key takeaways

  • Debit card fraud occurs when an unauthorized person uses someone’s debit card. Last year alone, nearly 70,000 Americans were impacted by debit card fraud.
  • The amount of debit card fraud is projected to soar to over $165 billion in the next decade as scammers get more sophisticated.
  • Consumers must remain vigilant in-store and online to avoid becoming a victim.


Angelena Mascilli

Managing Director, Head of J.P. Morgan Wealth Management Banking

Debit card fraud can certainly feel like one of those things that only happens to other people. But last year alone, close to 70,000 consumers were victims of debit card fraud, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network. That’s a 12% year-over-year increase – and the upward trend is expected to continue.1 Bank card fraud losses are projected to skyrocket to over $165 billion in the next decade as scammers deploy more sophisticated tools and techniques.2 This kind of fraud can happen to anyone, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself.

While most debit card fraud happens online, you can still fall victim when swiping your card. Either way, the goal for fraudsters is to get ahold of your debit card information and wipe out your bank account. In order to stay safe, you must first understand the different methods criminals are using to capture your data in the first place. 

Skimmers, phishers, and hackers

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates losses from skimming are $1 billion a year.3

  • What is skimming? Skimming occurs when devices are installed on ATMs, point-of-sale terminals and fuel pumps to capture data and steal cardholders’ PINs. Scammers then use the information to make fake debit or credit cards. 
  • What can you do?
  1. To prevent your card from being skimmed at a gas station, the FTC advises using a pump close to the store in the line of sight of the attendant. These are less likely to be targeted by skimmers.
  2. Consider covering the keypad when entering your PIN to protect your credentials. Alternatively, you can pay inside instead of at the pump. 
  3. If you are at an ATM or point-of-sale terminal it may be worth doing a quick scan for any signs of tampering such as any piece that is loose, damaged, crooked or scratched. If you spot anything unusual, don’t use the machine.
  4. ATMs in well-lit, indoor locations are typically less likely to be targeted by skimmers. Once again, it may help to cover the keypad when inputting your PIN. When possible, use cards with chip technology. 

Phishing emails and messages have gotten progressively sophisticated in recent years.

  • What is phishing? Phishing refers to the use of emails and texts to trick users into giving up financial information. The aim of phishing is to get you to click on a link and either log into your bank account or offer up your debit card information. It has become a common form of fraud.
  • What can you do? Staying safe online is important in protecting yourself against debit card fraud. Because phishing emails and messages have continuously increased in complexity, it can be difficult to tell if they are fake. One way to limit the risk of falling victim to a phishing scam when you get a text or email is to ask yourself if you know the company or person contacting you and if the number or email address matches what they’ve used to contact you previously. If the answer is no, it could be a telltale sign it’s a scam. If yes, instead of clicking on the link, call the company or go to the website directly to confirm the message’s accuracy. 

Hacking is a popular and often invisible way criminals attempt to access to your debit card.

  • What is hacking? When you bank or shop on public Wi-Fi networks, hackers can use keylogging software to capture everything you type, including your name, debit card account number and PIN. That is why it is important to be careful online by always using secure websites with private Wi-Fi when shopping or banking.
  • What can you do? To protect yourself, especially when you are on public WiFi, be sure to use strong passwords, turn on two-factor authentication if available and ensure your security software, operating system and internet browser are updated. The same rules apply to your mobile phone. Also, be sure to never enter your card details into an unsecure website or store that information in your browser.

Spotting debit card fraud

Spotting debit card fraud can be straightforward once you know what to look for, but it does require some diligence. That includes regularly reviewing your bank statements for any discrepancies, setting up bank alerts to clue you in if a purchase you did not authorize was made or opting to use your credit card instead. It may be beneficial to use your credit card in place of your debit when available because it usually takes longer to get reimbursed for unauthorized purchases on a debit card.

What to do if it happens to you

If you are a victim of debit card fraud there are several steps you should take including the following: 

  1. Alert your card issuer. As soon as possible contact your bank to report the fraudulent activity. The bank will likely cancel your card and issue a new one. Once you receive the new one you’ll have to update any automatic payments you have linked to it.
  2. Place a fraud watch on your credit report. Speak to your advisor about contacting one of the three credit rating agencies – Equifax, Transunion or Experian – to place a fraud alert on your credit report. This free service will require new lenders to verify it's you before opening any new accounts in your name. Your advisor only has to contact one credit bureau to have the alert on all three credit reports. The alert can be removed at any time. If you suspect you may be a victim of fraud or that your personal information may be comprised, freezing your credit profile can be a sound next step. This will prevent new credit lines from being opened in your name.
  3. Report the fraud to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You can report scams as well as confirmed cases of identity theft. Law enforcement will use the reports to investigate the case if warranted.

Unfortunately, debit card fraud is a real threat and is only expected to increase in frequency. But by staying vigilant, you may be able to avoid becoming part of the statistic.



Federal Trade Commission, “New FTC Data Show Consumers Reported Losing Nearly $8.8 Billion to Scams in 2022.” (February 2023).


The Nilson Report, “Payment Card Fraud Losses Reach $32.34 Billion.” (December 2022).


Federal Trade Commission, “New FTC Data Show Consumers Reported Losing Nearly $8.8 Billion to Scams in 2022.” (February 2023).

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