Overall, ATMs offer a safe and convenient way to access your cash and conduct simple banking transactions—but it’s also possible that while using an ATM, you may be targeted by a fraudster. Here are a few important tips on ATM safety and how to protect yourself and your money while banking via ATMs.
Time & Place
Exercise common sense when it comes to deciding when and where to withdraw cash from an ATM. Aim to get out your money during the afternoon rather than early in the morning or late at night, and choose an ATM location that’s busy enough so that if something should go wrong, there are other people around who can help. Official credit union or bank branch ATMs are almost always your best bet for convenience and safety, especially if it’s a machine inside the branch. Drive-through ATMs can also offer a good level of safety and privacy, although it’s still important to be vigilant about machine tampering and aware of your surroundings.
Check for Tampering
While it’s less common than other forms of financial fraud, scammers have been known to tamper with ATM machines in an attempt to steal cards, card numbers or other sensitive financial information. Don’t use an ATM that shows obvious signs of damage or loose parts. Also be sure to check the card slot before inserting your card; if it looks jammed or like it’s been tampered with, don’t use the machine. If your card does get trapped in the machine, call your bank immediately. Leave the ATM if you are worried about personal safety, but otherwise try to stay with your card.
Protect Your PIN
Your personal identification number, or PIN, is a valuable piece of data. Protect it by keeping your distance from other people while using an ATM. If someone comes up close while you’re entering your PIN, stop what you’re doing and ask them to give you some space, even if they claim to be trying to help. It’s also important to shield the keypad when entering your PIN, even if there’s nobody else around, as very small pinhole cameras can be discreetly installed by scammers.
Do Larger Tasks Online
It’s generally safer to do larger financial tasks online, instead of at an ATM. Going online through an official channel offers a higher level of safety and security, so if you need to open an account, deposit a check or review bank records—don’t do it at an ATM. If you’re unsure about online banking or don’t yet have an app to help manage your money, get in touch with your financial institution so that they can walk you through the set-up. With online banking, mobile check deposit and person-to-person payments, there are more ways than ever to reduce your chances of being scammed at an ATM.
Report Issues Immediately
If something does go wrong while using an ATM—i.e. you can’t get your card back from the machine, or you suspect your PIN number has been compromised—call up your financial institution immediately to report it. The sooner you can put a hold on your bank card, the better, because you’re not liable for fraudulent charges which occur after a report has been issued. The longer you wait to report a compromised debit card, the more money you may be liable for.