COURSEY: Swiping your card

One of the first things I did Monday morning was clear the weekend's receipts off the top of my dresser.

Bank deposit, drinks, dinner, grocery store, bike shop – a handful of transactions crumpled into a ball and tossed into the trash can in the corner of my bedroom.

Then I went outside and got the paper, which greeted me with news of an ATM "skimming" scam at the Lucky store in Petaluma. Somebody was literally "swiping" customers' debit cards.

And all of a sudden I was having second thoughts about those discarded receipts.

It's not the same thing, I know.

The scam that has plagued some 20 Bay Area Lucky stores over the past couple of weeks involves inserting specific equipment on or in an electronic debit-card reader in order to gather data from the card, and possibly the personal identification number associated with it.

That's what Petaluma police think may have happened to seven people who reported as much as $1,000 had been withdrawn from their bank accounts without authorization.

But the story about the skimming scheme reminded me of how cavalier I've become with my debit card.

As a member of the generation that once paid only by cash or check, having an ATM card in my wallet at first made me paranoid. It is, after all, a plastic key to my bank account.

I guarded it like I would a fat wad of cash. I would never hand it to a waiter or clerk who could take it out of my sight. Any significant transaction would be put on the credit card, not the debit. When I did use it, I would stuff receipts into an envelope and tuck them away in my desk for future reference.

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