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Michaels stores hit by debit card fraud

A Michaels shopping cart March 22, 2006 in Mount Prospect, Ill.

HOST: The Arts and crafts store chain Michael's says a debit card security breach is bigger than initial reports. It has affected customers in at least 20 states. Thieves managed to steal customer debit cards and pin numbers from checkout terminals.

And the fact that we're talking debit cards and not credit cards makes all the difference, as Marketplace's Janet Babin reports:


Janet Babin: Michaels stores are still investigating how it happened, but some Michaels debit card customers noticed hundreds of dollars missing from their bank accounts. Getting that cash back will be much tougher than if they had used a credit card to make their purchase.

Curtis Arnold: A lot of consumers think plastic is plastic and that ain't true.

That's Curtis Arnold with CardRatings.com. He says if fraud's committed with your credit card, you're only liable for up to $50, and even that fee is usually waived. But with debit cards?

Arnold: You can be vulnerable for up to $50, even reporting it within two days, and then if you report it within 60 days, you can still be vulnerable for up to $500.

Wait longer than 60 days, and you could be forced to eat the entire loss. Arnold says debit card fraud has expanded recently, as credit card security has tightened.

Debit cards will probably get more federal protections when a new consumer watchdog agency goes live this summer.

I'm Janet Babin for Marletplace.

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