Your ATM card provides access to all the funds in your bank account, so it’s important to keep it safe at all times. You probably know that you should look out for anyone lurking behind you while using the ATM to ensure they don’t see your PIN (or steal the cash you just withdrew), but practicing ATM safety goes beyond just this.
Here are 5 ATM safety tips that everyone should know.
Unless you have no choice but to withdraw cash from a gas station ATM in the middle of nowhere at 2 a.m., it’s best to avoid such practices. Always use an ATM located in a busy street and avoid making after-midnight withdrawals.
To this extent, it is always best to use the ATM at a bank or credit union because you can be sure of their legitimacy and security. Plus, by using your own bank’s ATM, you can avoid extra charges that may be applied to withdrawals made from other machines.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Make sure to look around to see that there isn’t anyone near you before swiping your card. Stay alert so you can catch any suspicious activity around you. Locations that are isolated and/or dark give thieves the perfect opportunity to surprise you.
Look for an ATM with a CCTV camera or a security guard posted outside as they are generally safer. Make sure to count your cash while still inside or wait until you get to a safe location. Never handle large amounts of cash out in public!
Protect Your PIN
Your PIN number is the single most important thing when it comes to keeping your money safe at the ATM. That’s why it’s important to make sure it is absolutely secure. Here are some ways to do so:
- Cover the keypad with your hands while entering the PIN – you never know who’s watching.
- Never store it anywhere, whether it be a piece of paper your phone’s notes app.
- Avoid sharing your PIN with anyone, be it friends or family.
- Do not respond to calls, text messages, or emails asking for your PIN.
- Avoid using birthdays, phone numbers, or the account number for your PIN.
Don’t Ask Strangers for Help
It can be tempting to ask the next person in line if you are stuck while using the ATM, but it’s best to avoid this at all costs. If you need assistance, it is always best to go to a bank employee or call the toll-free number (found on all bank websites) to get the help you need.
If you do end up asking someone close by for help, which should only be a last resort option anyway, never, ever divulge your PIN details!
Beware of Skimmers
Fraudsters use rigged electronic devices called “skimmers” which are programmed to read your debit card details and/or PIN once the card has been inserted. To be sure that the ATM you’re using hasn’t been tampered with, look for signs such as glue or tape reside, bulky hardware attached to the reader, extra “dangly” parts, an unusually thick keypad, or a card slot that is loose. Make sure your card fits into the reader snugly; otherwise, it could be an indication that a skimmer has been installed.
You should also look for tiny cameras that may be installed on the ATM with the purpose of reading your PIN when you enter it. This is why it’s important to cover the keypad with your hand when you type it in. Look for small holes drilled into the machine – these are usually indications of tiny hidden cameras.
Potentially, criminals can tamper with any ATM, but gas stations or supermarket ATMs are the most common targets. Although it is safe to assume that official bank locations will have heightened security, it is still up to you to be vigilant.
If you ever feel like there is something wrong with the ATM machine or reader, don’t use it! And instead of leaving it up to chance, do your due diligence and inform the manager or owner of the place so that the next unsuspecting customer doesn’t fall prey! You can even call the customer service at the ATM machine’s manufacturer if possible.
Complete Your Transaction Properly
Once you have withdrawn your cash, make sure to check that you have received the right amount before leaving the ATM. This way, you can call for immediate assistance if something goes wrong. And make sure your session is over before leaving by ensuring that the screen has returned to the welcome prompt.
Don’t forget to collect your debit card and receipt and put them away safely before walking out. And if you’re going to throw away the receipt, do so carefully because the information on it can be misused in the wrong hands.