SageAdvice

ATM Safety and You

ATMs have revolutionized the banking world. In fact, for most people, it has become an important part of everyday life. Using an ATM, you can access your account 24 hours a day, seven days a week; however, the biggest benefit is the ability to obtain cash whenever needed.

Just as you would take precautions with most financial matters, especially in public places, there are some common sense guidelines you can take to keep you, your money and your financial information safe when using an ATM.

Pay Close Attention to Your Surroundings. Be aware of your surroundings, especially at night. If you observe or sense suspicious persons or circumstances, DO NOT use the ATM at that time. Don’t select to use an ATM at the corner of a building; corners create blind spots. Rather, choose a well-lit location that is free of shrubbery and decorative partitions or dividers.

Get Your ATM Card Ready. Have your ATM card ready and in your hand as you approach the ATM. Be careful that no one can see you enter your PIN; use your body as a shield.

Memorize your PIN. Memorize your PIN for your ATM card; never write it down on the back or your card (or anywhere else for that matter). Do not re-enter your PIN if the ATM eats your card; notify your financial institution immediately.

Don’t Count Your Cash at the ATM. Never count your cash at the ATM or in public view after you conduct the transaction; wait until you are in your car or another secure place to do so. Additionally, you should try to avoid large cash withdrawals at an ATM.

Keep your ATM Receipts. Always keep your transaction receipts with you; don’t just wad them up and throw them away. Thieves may take your receipt to see how much money you have withdrawn and then find you with that money. Additionally, keeping your receipts will allow you to closely monitor your checking statements.

Don’t Wear Expensive Jewelry or Take Valuables to an ATM. Try to avoid wearing expensive jewelry or taking valuables to an ATM; this is an added incentive for an assailant. If you are going out somewhere that requires this type of wardrobe or valuable, get the cash you need prior to getting dressed in that attire.

Closely monitor statements. Be sure to closely monitor your checking statements. If you see any type of discrepancy, contact your financial institution immediately.

Prepare for the transaction ahead of time.You should always prepare yourself for a transaction before arriving at the ATM; this will minimize the amount of time you spend there. Keep a supply of deposit envelopes available for your use at home or in the car.

Keep your engine running at a drive-up ATM. When using a drive-up ATM, keep your engine running and your doors locked. You should also leave enough room to maneuver between your car and the one ahead of you in the drive-up line.

Comply and report if involved in a confrontation. If you are involved in a confrontation with an assailant who demands your money, COMPLY. There are laws that protect you. Don’t worry about your money; your life is much more important. If you know of, or experience a crime at an ATM, report it immediately to the ATM owner, the police and your financial institution.

Although rare, some ATM crime does exist. But following these guidelines will provide you with a way to limit your exposure to it.

Source: The Electronic Funds Transfer Association, the Los Angeles Police Department, and the Massachusetts Police Commission.

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