8 Important ATM Safety Tips

8 Important ATM Safety Tips

ATMs are convenient, fast, and easy to use. You can enjoy their advantages while staying safe by following a few steps.

1. Keep Your Card Secure

A PIN (personal identification number) are required for ATM transactions. A PIN is a 4-digit card security measure that helps prevent fraudulent charges. When creating a PIN, don't use numbers someone may guess, such as those relating to your birthday, card number, or address. Also, never write your PIN down or give it out to anyone. No individual or entity should ask you for it, including merchants, financial agencies, or law enforcement.

2. Prepare in Advance

Preparation can limit your time at the ATM and keep you focused on your transaction and surroundings. Before you leave for the ATM, get everything ready that you'll need for the transaction (such as endorsing a check or organizing the cash you want to deposit). Put your cash, checks, and card all in one discreet but accessible place, like an envelope or secure pocket of your bag. This way, you won't have to hunt for anything when you arrive at the ATM. 

3. Find the Best Location

ATMs in well-lit, busy areas with camera surveillance are the least likely to be targeted by thieves. ATMs at financial institutions, hotels, and grocery stores are often the safest. Avoid ATMs located out of view of the road (such as behind a building) or that have decorative shrubbery, columns, or structures nearby, which could be used as hiding places.

4. Wait With an Out

If you're using a drive-up ATM, leave enough room between cars for you to safely maneuver away if needed. Stay in your car with locked doors, windows up, and engine running. When it’s your turn at the ATM, pull as close to the machine as possible, making it difficult for someone to get between it and your car. If someone approaches you or asks for help, don't unlock your door or open your window. Instead, politely decline and stay in your vehicle. Drive away if you feel uncomfortable.

If you leave your car and walk to the ATM, lock your car and remain alert to your surroundings. If you're walking to the ATM, go with friends and during daylight whenever possible. Watch for loiterers or suspicious vehicles parked nearby, whether in a car or on foot. If you see or sense that something is amiss, leave and perform your transaction at a different time or location. Always trust your gut.

5. Check for ATM Tampering

Card skimmers are electronic devices that record information like your card number and PIN, which can be used to make counterfeit cards or fraudulent purchases. Skimmers aren't always easy to spot, so look for these warning signs when you get to the ATM:

  • Scratches or scrapes around the screen, keypad, or card reader
  • Glue, tape, or sticky residue on the screen, keypad, or card reader
  • Loose, crooked, or dangling ATM components
  • Bulkiness on the card reader or keypad
  • Partially covered or missing buttons, words, or graphics
  • Resistance when pressing buttons or inserting your card

You can also download apps on your phone that check for nearby skimmers by scanning for Bluetooth signals that send information from the ATM. If you're ever in doubt, trust your gut, report it to the business that manages the ATM, and use a different machine.

6. Keep Your Transaction Secure

No one should be close enough to the ATM to see your transaction details. If they are, politely ask them to step back, and leave if they refuse to. Use your body and hand to shield the keypad from view at walk-up ATMs as you enter your PIN and make your deposit or withdrawal.

Don’t accept anyone’s offer to assist with your transaction, even if you’re running into problems with the ATM. Instead, leave and try a different ATM. If you realize after completing your transaction that someone may have seen your details, lock your card and contact your financial institution immediately.

7. Handle Withdrawals With Care

Be observant of your surroundings and leave if something seems odd. Put your cash somewhere safe and discreet immediately. Wait until you’re somewhere else before counting it, even if you’re in a car. Always take your receipt or have it emailed to you and compare receipts to your account statements so you can easily identify fraudulent activity. 

8. Leave Quickly

When leaving an ATM, promptly roll your car window up and keep your doors locked. Try to avoid driving past suspicious vehicles or people. If leaving on foot, walk with a purpose and pay attention to your surroundings. Don’t walk past suspicious vehicles or people.

If you feel unsafe in any ATM situation, immediately go to the nearest reputable business or call someone you trust. People are less likely to hassle you if they know someone else knows where you are and can hear what's happening. If you're followed from the ATM, go to the nearest crowded, well-lit area and call the police.