Tips on Avoiding Theft At The ATM Machine

The whole idea of ATMs is pretty wonderful.  There’s such a convenience when you need cash or want to make a quick deposit.  They are everywhere and open at all times.  Maybe too open at times for criminals to grab some cash out of your account!

Whether you are in your car, on the street or in a building, you could be targeted.  There is such a variety of ATMs that the unique installation at each location does not create a single formula to guarantee safety.  You need to consider the environment around you at all times at the ATM.

Criminals select victims and tend to focus on those they deem unaware or unprepared.  Environmental conditions are also a large factor in determining where to commit this crime.

You also need to be aware of ATMs that have been tampered and have a skimmer over the card reader, which can steal your card information with one swipe.

There are a number of ways you can increase your personal security and risks of becoming a victim at the ATM.

Selecting The Right ATM

Probably one of the most important factors in safety at the ATM is choosing one that has the safest conditions available.  Even though the law sets minimum standards for ATMs including lighting, it is always best to keep these things in mind when selecting an ATM.

  • Do not select an ATM at the corner of the building. These create a blind area.  Make sure you go to the center of the building.
  • Identify an ATM with high visibility from the surrounding area.
  • Make sure the ATM is in a well-lighted location.
  • Do not use an ATM that doesn’t look right. Look at the graphics to make sure they are lined up.  Also look for pieces that are a different color. Wiggle the card reader.  This is where criminals will place a skimmer to read and steal your debit card information.  If you are unsure about the ATM, compare it’s appearance to another one nearby if one is available.

Using The ATM

After you find the right ATM, make sure you are aware of your surroundings.  Here are some things to help prepare you when you get to the machine.

  • Have your card ready and in your hand. Don’t wait until you get to the machine to dig it out.
  • Do another look at the ATM for possible skimming devices. Look for sticky residue, scratches, damaged or crooked pieces and extra attachments on the card slot.  Also, look at the keypad.  It should not feel extra thick or have additional residue.
  • Wiggle your card as you enter it in the reader. Skimming devices need one smooth swipe.  Wiggling your card will not hurt your transaction but will foil a skimmer’s reading of your card.
  • Shield the keypad as you enter your PIN. Criminals may install cameras around to read your PIN.
  • Do not count your money at the ATM. Wait until you are in your locked car or at home.
  • If you are at a drive-up ATM, roll up your passenger windows and lock all your doors. Always lock your doors even if you have to get out right in front of your car to get to the ATM.
  • If you feel like something is suspicious as you are using the machine, cancel transaction immediately. Always follow your gut.

Protect Your ATM Card

It’s important to protect your ATM card just like you would with any other credit card or cash.  Here are some things to remember:

  • Do not write down your PIN number, especially on the card.
  • Never give any information about your card or PIN over the phone. Banks will not call to verify your PIN number.  Call the police immediately if you get a call requesting your PIN.
  • When selecting a PIN, do not choose anything that is identifiable such as birthdays, phone numbers, numbers in sequence or Social Security number.
  • Always crosscheck your receipts against your account. Do not throw away receipt at the ATM site.
  • Immediately report a lost bankcard.

You don’t have to be a victim of a crime at the ATM whether it is a physical robbery or stealing of your card from a skimmer.  These simple suggestions can help you be aware of the crimes out there and to always be aware of your surroundings.  One quick trip to an ATM doesn’t have to turn into a fight against identity and your hard earned money.

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