Debit card users beware: All plastic is not protected equally

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Before you whip out your debit card, consider this: If some crafty thief hacks the store terminal and goes on a shopping spree using your data, you could be responsible for $500 in charges.

Debit cards do not share the same consumer protections as credit cards.

Not all of the 40 million Target customers who had debit and credit card numbers stolen can rest easy about their liability for fraudulent charges, Ed Mierzwinski of the US Public Interest Research Group pointed out this week.

‘‘The zero liability promise the banks make is just a promise, it’s not the law,’’ he told the Senate Banking Committee.

Credit cards are covered by the Truth in Lending Act, which caps liability at $50.

And debt cards? By a different law.

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