One of the advantages of debit cards over other forms of payment is that they can be used over the phone. This can be useful not simply as a way of ordering goods, but also to pay many bills and utilities without delay, particularly if the bill has been forgotten.
Debit cards work by directly accessing an associated bank account, usually but not always a transaction account.
These transaction accounts are the way most people pay for goods and services as well as bills, usually through debit cards but also by cheque and direct transfer. Many utility companies and city governments, which in the past were reluctant to accept credit cards, are now happy to accept debit cards as a means of quick payment.
One thing that should not be done is provide debit card details to any person who makes an unsolicited phone call. This is a common way for identity thieves to steal debit card information, which can then be used for fraudulent purposes. If an unsolicited caller requests payment of a bill, the account holder should simply refuse to pay, particularly if dire consequences are threatened.
The account holder should then find the telephone number of the company and call them directly. Companies do call people when chasing late payments, although they have been asked not to, but it’s always safer to make the call directly rather than risk releasing debit card details to an identity thief.
When making the direct call, it’s a good idea to mention the unsolicited caller claiming to represent the company. If it proves to be an attempt at identity theft, the police can be informed. If it’s not, the utility company will know they are getting some negative feedback for this practice.
If the account holder has already made a debit card payment to an unsolicited caller claiming to represent a utility or other company, then the customer’s account should be checked to ensure it reflects this payment. If it doesn’t, unfortunately their details have likely been stolen and they must take action to protect the account associated with the debit card.
The first step is to report the payments made through the zero liability guarantee provided by the bank. These are unauthorised payments as, although the client provided their debit card details, it was done as an honest mistake. The debit card will also be cancelled and replaced to prevent further theft, which means the old card will no longer function and the account holder must wait for the new one to arrive.