It’s a fact of modern life: criminals are devising more creative ways to obtain your private bank account information at automatic teller machines (ATMs). Although this kind of theft is rare, it pays to be aware of some of the common tactics used by criminals at ATMs so you can take steps to protect yourself.
Be alert and be smart
Advances in technology have made it possible for criminals to create devices that “skim” or steal account information from your ATM card’s magnetic strip when you insert it into the machine. Sometimes the fraudsters even conceal miniature cameras on ATMs to record your keystrokes as you enter your PIN. A good rule of thumb is that if the ATM looks like it’s been tampered with, or if it just doesn’t look right, use another ATM.
Many experts believe it’s easier for criminals to tamper with a machine that’s in a grocery store or shopping mall, so if possible, use an ATM in a bank location where you feel comfortable. Stay aware of your surroundings; look around to guard against surveillance by anyone who may arouse your slightest suspicion.
Be ready for business when you step up to the machine. Have your bankcard out and avoid rooting through your purse, tapping around on your phone or doing anything that could make you appear vulnerable or distracted. The less time you spend at an ATM, the better. If you withdraw cash, slide the money straight into your wallet. Count it later.
Guard against “shoulder surfers.” Stand as close to the machine as possible and shield the keypad with one hand in case a shoulder surfer — someone trying to sneak a peek as you enter your PIN — is nearby. Use your free hand to cover the ATM keyboard while you type in your PIN.
At a drive-up ATM, keep your engine running, lock all your doors, and close all windows except your own.
When using an indoor ATM, be sure to lock your car and take your keys with you; don't ever leave your car running.
If your Debit or ATM card is lost or stolen, report it to your bank immediately. Report the unauthorized use of an ATM or your ATM card to your bank and to your local police. Closely monitor your bank statements and your balances, and immediately report any discrepancies to your bank. Mobile banking is a convenient way to regularly monitor your account activity.
And, most importantly, if you’re involved in a confrontation with an assailant who demands your money, comply.
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