A recent Wired magazine article made me think about credit cards and the possibility of theft and abuse.
Your credit (or debit/”check guarantee”) card is an amazing thing; it allows you to buy things without using money. However, most people look at their credit cards as if they were pieces of plastic instead of being as good as cash.
It is possible these days for a waiter/waitress to pass your card through a miniature card reader, called a “skimmer,” before they pass it through the point of sale machine. Skimming can happen anywhere; anyone you hand your card to can pass it through a reader in only a second or two.
The best way to avoid having your card “skimmed” is to not hand it to anyone, or, at the very least, watch the person you hand it to until they hand it back.
While is not possible everywhere, you should do it whenever possible.
The reason you should treat your credit/debit card as if it were cash is because criminals can make an exact copy of your card, and max it out, in less than a day.
It is always good policy to closely watch your statements when they come, because most credit card companies will forgive charges made with a stolen card IF you report them as soon as they are noticed.
Debit cards, however, do not have this same protection. Debit cards are hooked up to your bank account and if they are stolen, your bank account can be emptied in hours. This is why you should treat your cards, especially debit cards, as if they were cash.