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My ATM Card Information Was Compromised

I have a plain jane, no chip, credit union ATM only card, that I use exclusively while on vacation in Europe. I have watched videos of the many ways ATM's can be compromised. I consider myself to be prudent. I had notified my credit union of my travel plans to Italy and the UK. I normally use my card only in bank ATM’s, preferably inside the bank, but I will use a bank ATM on the outside wall of their office. I religiously cover the keypad when entering my PIN.

I spent a month in Italy during May and June and used my ATM card a total of three times, while in Varenna and Siena, at bank ATM’s located on the outside wall of their branch offices without experiencing any problems. I then left Italy to spend several weeks in the UK.

While in London I had purchased some food with cash, as I normally do, at a busy local supermarket chain. As I was walking out of the store I noticed an ATM with the “AllPoint” logo. This interested me as supposedly I was able to make withdrawals without any network or other fees. I decided to test it and find out for sure if this was true. I inserted my card and it came back “card is invalid”. I tried it two more times with the same results. There were other people waiting to use the ATM so I left.

The next day I went to a bank ATM and had the same results. Later that night I used skype to call my credit union and inquire as to what the problem was. They explained that it was locked due to “suspicious activity”. I was told two withdrawals had been made, on the same day, about the same time, in Bulgaria and did I know anything about them! As I did not know anything about them I was told a fraud incident would be opened and the funds would be credited back into my account. In the meantime I could have my ATM card reactivated so that I could use it, or have it cancelled with a new card being mailed to my home address. As I have a backup ATM card on another account, I had them cancel the compromised card.

I know what you are thinking, waa, waa, waa, nothing to see here, nothing new, time to move on.

I DID LEARN SOMETHING NEW though, that I have never seen in any ATM forum discussions. I discovered that my credit union’s mobile banking app allows me to lock/unlock my ATM card AT WILL IN REAL TIME. I immediately locked my card and found a Barclays ATM for a test. I inserted my card and it came back “card is invalid”. Using my phone app I unlocked the card and immediately inserted it again into the ATM and it worked! I then locked it and immediately tried to use it again receiving the message “card is invalid”. So now my plan is to keep my ATM card locked at all times except for the minute or two while making a withdrawal.

Has anyone else ever heard of this or have this capability?

Posted by
3491 posts

Several banks offer this for credit cards, it is still fairly new for debit.

Definitely something worth using if it is available to you.

Does this prevent the fraud warnings when your card is attempted to be used somewhere you are not?

Posted by
2653 posts

Has anyone else ever heard of this or have this capability?

Wells Fargo allows me to:

1) turn the card on / off (debit cards and credit card)
2) turn on/off the setting to "allow transactions outside of the United States (debit only, not credit card)

I hadn't thought of turning the card on/off with ATM use, but it sounds like good protection - if I have wifi or a data plan.

Posted by
492 posts

There are some nifty things you can do with your bank's mobile apps nowadays!

With some banks, having to call ahead and let them know you'll be traveling is a thing of the past. Instead, you can let the mobile banking app's location detection functions tell your bank what they need to know. If you open the app while in Paris, the bank will know you're there so not flag it as suspicious if you then visit an ATM machine in Paris (though depending on how this feature works with the app, keep in mind your data! If you have it set to run in the background on your phone, it could mean unintended data usage and roaming charges). You can lock/unlock the card. You can raise or lower your daily withdrawal limits. You can set up all kinds of notifications - get a text or email when a withdrawal or transaction amount above a set number is attempted or when there's a failed transaction attempt, for instance. All very handy!

In the past, someone might be hesitant to immediately call their bank and report a card as lost if they couldn't find their wallet - the feeling was it's a process that can't be reversed, so if you find the wallet under the bed a few minutes later you're outta luck and now stuck with a useless piece of plastic until you're sent a new one. Now, you can just lock it as a precaution, and easily unlock it if and when you find it was only misplaced.

Posted by
43 posts

Thank you for that suggestion. I consider myself to not be dumb. I have a college education, have been a business owner. Why I never thought of this just escapes me!

Posted by
92 posts

Thanks for sharing your experience. I will definitely look into using this feature on my Credit Union debit card on my upcoming trip this fall! Great information!

Posted by
2916 posts

Based on the info here, I think I might install apps for my banks before my next trip. I used to have them, but deleted them because I never used them.

Posted by
4689 posts

The best options for turning off card functionality in my opinion if you have them are to turn off mag stripe and online transactions leaving only card holder present transactions by chip (and preferably PIN).

Since transactions in the USA are the leading source of credit card fraud in the world, turning off transactions from the rest of the world and leaving the USA untouched wouldn't seem that useful.

Posted by
9718 posts

Interesting! I appreciate the information. Like Robert I deleted the app for my credit union because I didn't use it. I will re-install it and see what's what.

My CU is one that has the UK on the list for possible fraud locations so they have to do an extra step to open the card up for usage there. I found that out one time when they didn't do that and my card was rejected in London. Fortunately I had my brother listed as a "person of interest" lol or whatever they call it so he called and got it straightened out for me.