While ATMs have added some convenience to our lives, a few risks have also popped up. ATM's give criminals another opportunity to get at your money, and you should take steps to reduce your risk. Most of us can stay out of trouble with simple common sense, but you should periodically review some proven tactics. Follow these simple tips, and you'll improve your odds against the scammers.
- Look over the machine before inserting your card. If you see something that looks unfamiliar on the machine, it could be part of an ATM scam. Card skimmers (external readers) and hidden cameras can be used to compromise a bank account. Bottom line: if it looks funny, look for another ATM machine. Remember, skimmers can also be placed on gas station pumps or anywhere else you slide a card.
- Skimmers may be installed on ATM machines, and sometimes you can’t even notice them. A small device goes over the normal card reading slot and reads your card's magnetic stripe.
- Use secure ATM machines, ones that are equipped with video surveillance or inside of a bank lobby. They're less likely to be tampered with. Thieves have to take more risk installing skimmers where there are security cameras.
- We've all heard the stories about carjacking. Think how much more attractive you are as a target with cash-in-hand. When your car is stopped and you're picking up cash, just take the half-second required to lock your car doors and keep crooks out.
- Have someone accompany you to the ATM if possible.
- Fill out banking forms ahead of time.
- Spend a minimum amount of time at the ATM.
- As you approach the ATM, be aware of your surroundings. If you notice something or someone suspicious, go to another ATM or come back later.
- Do not use an ATM that appears unusual looking or offers options with which you are not familiar or comfortable.
- Make sure the lighting around the ATM is adequate, if not, go to another ATM and notify the financial institution.
- Make sure your cars passenger windows are up and all doors are locked when using drive-up ATM's.
- Be wary of people trying to "help" you with your ATM transaction.
- Do not allow people to look over your shoulder as you enter your pin code. Cover the ATM keypad as you're entering your PIN -- just in case there's a hidden camera around. And be cautious of people around you with cell phones since many of them are now equipped with camera/video capabilities.
- Do not re-enter your pin if the ATM "eats" your card - contact a bank official immediately.
- DO NOT write your pin number on the back of your card.
- Do not display cash, pocket it and count it later in your car or at home.
- Immediately report all lost or stolen cards to your bank.
- Never share your Personal Identification Number (PIN) or give it out over the telephone even if the caller identifies himself or herself as your banker or a police officer.
- Closely monitor your bank statements, as well as your balance and immediately report any problems to your bank.
- Be alert to your surroundings and other people around you.
- Never display cash in a financial institution parking lot, if possible not even a "bank bag".
- When you conduct banking business during the evening hours, if it is dark, have someone accompany you.
- Park as near as possible to your destination, such as the branch entrance, ATM or night depository.
- Establish your banking relationship with a financial institution that provides an obviously safe and secure environment, including the parking lot.
Tips for Safeguarding Your Information
- Do not give your social security number or other personal credit information about yourself to anyone who calls you.
- Tear up or shred receipts, bank statements and unused credit card offers before throwing them away.
- Do not mail bills from your mailbox with the flag up. Take them to a US Postal drop box or your local Post Office.
- Retrieve mail promptly from your mailbox.
- Sign up for direct deposit whenever possible.
- Notice when monthly bills come in the mail. If they are delayed, contact merchant or credit card company for the reason of delay or the date of the mailing.
- Review your monthly accounts regularly for any unauthorized charges.
- If your account activity looks suspicious or important mail is delayed, check with the merchant or biller immediately.
- If fraud is detected, contact credit bureaus and take advantage of all recourse and protection periods.
- Should you need to contact any of the three Credit Reporting Agencies the numbers and websites are as follows:
- Check your credit report at least once a year to look for suspicious activity.
- Sign up for online banking and review your statements on a regular basis.
- Use hard to guess unique passwords and change them regularly.
- Do not write down your pin number or password. If you cannot remember it and must write it, disguise it as a sentence or a telephone number.
- Write down the contents of your wallet in case of theft.
- Report loss of credit and debit cards or driver's license immediately.
- Report loss of your checkbook immediately to your financial institution.
- Do not discard a computer without deleting all your files first.
- Choose to do business with companies you know are reputable, particularly online. When banking and shopping, check to be sure the sites are security enabled. Look for web addresses with “https://” or “shttp://”, which means the site takes extra measures to help secure your information. “Http://” is not secure.
- Beware of e-mail attachments. Especially if they are from someone you don't know and even if they are from someone you do know.