How much thought do you give to ATM security when you use one for cash withdrawal or banking? For many, the answer is “little to none.” ATMs were created for consumer convenience, but they also provide a convenience to criminals, who find ATMs and their users to be an easy target. Bank cards have changed over the years to include ATM security measures, such as CVV codes and chip-enabling features. These measures have helped reduce some types of fraud.
But what about your physical safety? While ATM crimes are not nearly as prevalent as home burglaries or other criminal activities, they do happen. But there are steps you can take to lessen your chances of becoming a victim:
- Stick to the daylight hours! Most ATM robberies happen at night. If you must use one after dark, find one that is well-lit, preferably easy to see in a populated area.
- Try to use an ATM inside your bank, or at least one connected to your bank’s building. They are less likely to have been tampered with than freestanding ones.
- Choose an ATM without surrounding obstacles that is highly visible.
- Be prepared to make your transaction quickly. Have your card out and ready, and leave as soon as your transaction is complete.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Take note if someone is nearby an ATM, whether you are at a drive-up or walk-up unit, and stay aware of their proximity while you make your transaction.
- Shield the keypad with your hand and body when you enter your PIN. Some criminals pretend to wait in line but are actually watching for your PIN entry.
- Be observant of the ATM unit itself. Does it have dents or scratches around the lock mechanism or the card reader? Does it appear to have been altered in any way or have additional pieces attached to it? Do there appear to be additional parts inside the card reader? These could all be signs of tampering. Avoid using the unit if it looks damaged.
- Trust your gut. If something looks suspicious, choose a different ATM.
Technology will continue to find ways to enhance ATM security in the future. Already there is talk of replacing traditional cards and PINS with more biometric means. Someday, withdrawing money might require a personal touch from your fingerprint or even a retina scan!