Nowadays, it’s increasingly common for in-person financial transactions to be conducted with payment cards, which can be used to buy pretty much everything from groceries to gasoline. Even so, having old-fashioned cash on hand is always convenient. That’s why so many of us periodically visit an ATM to withdraw money from our personal accounts.
However, the act of making these withdrawals isn’t without its hazards, as a certain type of criminal views the ATM as the ideal opportunity to enrich themselves at your expense. Therefore, you need to be wary while at a public cash machine. Here are some useful tips for maximizing your safety during your next trip to the ATM.
- Select a highly visible ATM. The basic idea here is that criminals are much less likely to strike in an area where multiple witnesses may be around. For example, you don’t want to use an ATM positioned in the rear of a building with no passers-by in the area. Pick an ATM in plain view, such as one facing a busy road. It’s also best if the surrounding area is brightly lit.
- Don’t use an ATM positioned at the corner of a building. This gives criminals an opportunity to sneak up on you by approaching from the adjacent wall. They’re much less likely to approach if the machine is toward the center of the building, where they can become visible to you at a distance. By the same token, be wary of obstructions in the area where someone might hide behind.
- Look for security aids. Criminals tend not to hover around ATMs that have cameras recording their actions. The presence of a security guard in the area is also likely to scare them off.
- Be aware of the immediate environment. Are there any suspicious characters lurking around? Is someone just sitting in a car nearby? Don’t take chances—if you feel unsafe, go somewhere else.
- Don’t leave your car running. Some people are in the habit of leaving their car idling and unattended while they make a “quick” visit to a nearby ATM. For obvious reasons, this is just a bad idea.
- Don’t write your PIN on the card. If your card is stolen or accidentally left inside the ATM, you’ve given someone else easy access to your account.
- Beware of “shoulder surfers.” That’s the informal term for criminals who peer over your shoulder as you input your PIN at the machine. They don’t necessarily need any other card data in order to cause mischief. On some ATMs, transactions are usually concluded with a message inviting the user to continue on the same account simply by retyping the PIN. If you’re in the habit of leaving immediately after withdrawing money, before this screen clears, the lurker could promptly seize this opportunity to access your account via your PIN. Covering the keypad will shield your PIN from human eyes.
- Watch out for suspicious machines. Some criminals place devices on the ATM to capture your data. This could mean a hidden camera pointed at the PIN keypad and/or another type of gadget designed to record your account number when you insert the card in the reader. These devices can be very difficult to detect, but, in many cases, there are obvious signs of tampering. Again, you need to stay on the safe side. If the machine looks strange, go to another one.
- Don’t linger at the ATM. You want to make your transaction as quick as possible. This means that you shouldn’t stand there counting your money or analyzing your receipt.
- Plan your trip in advance. It’s best to identify the safer ATMs in the area before you really need one. If possible, take the time to visit some local ATMs so you have an idea as to which ones offer the most security—e.g., strong lighting, security cameras, 24/7 guards, etc.
When you need fast cash, please visit an ATM of The People’s Federal Credit Union, located throughout the Amarillo, Texas area, visit us on the web to access our 55,000 surcharge-free ATMs or open a KASASA account to get free ATM surcharge refunds nationwide.