4 Need-to-Know ATM Security Tips
While most ATMs prompt you to discretely enter your PIN, there's more to ATM security than shielding your digits from passersby. New technology is making it easier for thieves to steal your personal information — and harder for you to detect it. However, by keeping these four tips in mind, you can still benefit from the convenience of ATMs, while keeping your data safe.
1. Choose the Right ATM
While your best bet is to use a familiar ATM attached to a bank during opening hours, many times you may not have that option, especially when you're traveling. But you can choose which ATM you use. Opt for locations that are visible — and with people around who can serve as witnesses should anything happen. Look for ATMs monitored by surveillance devices or a security officer. At night, choose a well-lit location and, when possible, have someone go with you. Locations that require you to swipe an ATM card to enter are a safer bet than on-street ATMs that are accessible to any passersby.
2. Check for Skimmers
Given that many ATMs have cameras installed to deter people from tampering with the machine or harassing customers, thieves have taken to installing an attachment on top of the existing card slot. These devices, called skimmers, read your card number and often appear as though they're part of the machine. If the card reader covers the arrow showing you where to insert your card, it may have a skimmer attached. Jiggle the reader. If it's loose, consider using a different machine.
3. Keep Your PIN Safe
Shielding your PIN from passersby is only one of several precautions you need to take to keep your number safe. Using your hand to shield your PIN can also protect it from small, hidden cameras.
Check for fake keypads, too. If the keypad is raised up more than usual, consider going elsewhere.
You'll also want to change how you enter your PIN. Thermal-imaging devices, including ones that attach to a smartphone, make it easy for someone to know which buttons you hit even after you've walked away from the machine. Instead of hitting only your PIN, rest your hand on all of the keys. This will make it harder for thermal-imaging to detect your PIN.
4. Go in Prepared
Have your card ready. Digging through your wallet or purse can easily distract you from your surroundings — especially if you're heading to an ATM for a longer transaction that requires paperwork such as depositing money. Keep deposit envelopes on hand so that you can quickly make your transaction and leave.
If you want to double-check that your deposit was accurate or that you received the right amount of cash, count your money and check your slips after you've left the ATM. Always dispose of your receipts at home.
As with any safety best practices, ATM security requires you to remain aware. Get in the habit of regularly monitoring your credit and debit card accounts to ensure that you catch any unauthorized transactions as soon as they happen.