It was considered a high-tech gadget 50 years ago, but now the ATM is a necessity for the millions of people who use them across the globe.
While much has changed about how and when consumers make withdrawals and deposits thanks to the ATM, little has changed when it comes to nefarious characters scheming to help themselves to your hard-earned cash. Common sense dictates that you be alert any time you are handling money. Ken Justice, senior vice president and ATM executive at PNC Bank, offers these tips to protect your accounts and your personal information when at an ATM.
1. Remember “stranger danger” – Different meaning for adults than children, but a good reminder to be wary of others when it comes to you and your money. Do not accept assistance from anyone you do not know when using an ATM, including strangers offering to help because they say the ATM is broken. It may be just a trick.
2. Wiggle the card readers – ATMs are well-made machines with no loose parts. Give a good tug on the device before you insert or swipe your card. Thieves can install small electronic devices, called skimmers, over the slot where you insert or swipe your card. If they do this, they can steal details regarding your account and personal information. If someone has tampered with a card reader, it may appear damaged (scratches, dents or gouges), it may appear to be glued or taped, or it may be loose. If you suspect tampering, DO NOT use the machine, and report it immediately.
3. Pick your spots – It’s all about location. Select ATMs in public, well-lit locations that are free of shrubbery or other obstructions.
4. Cover the keypad – Use your free hand to shield the numbers as you punch in your Personal Identification Number (PIN). Also, stand squarely in front of the machine to block prying eyes. Someone may be watching – and they may or may not be nearby. Clever fraudsters can use tiny cameras or cellphone cameras to spy on those using the ATM.
5. Minimize time at ATM – Avoid fumbling in your purse, wallet or pockets while standing at the machine. Remember common sense dictates that you be alert, not distracted. Arrive at the machine as prepared as possible: completed deposit slips, checks endorsed “for deposit only” and card on hand.
6. Protect Your PIN – ATM security begins with your PIN. Memorize it! Do not write it down and do not share it. Do not be tricked; no one from a financial institution, the police or a merchant should ask for your PIN. When it comes to your PIN, be selfish – keep it to yourself.
Bottom line: Be alert while using an ATM. If you notice anything suspicious about the ATM or the surrounding area, cancel your transaction and leave. Report the ATM to the bank or local law enforcement.
ATM skimming technology is advancing, and some skimmers are difficult to detect. For good measure, keep track of receipts and compare them with your credit card or bank statements.
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