The Holidays And Your Debit Card: Staying Safe At The ATM

Many of us have already begun our holiday shopping and Black Friday and Cyber Monday are literally just around the corner. 

Because of the convenience, most of us will be using our debit cards for transactions. That’s why many retailers have ATM machines in their place of business or an ATM machine is located close by. The problem is that scammers know this and want to take full advantage of this fact especially during the holiday season.

Let’s keep the holidays merry and bright and criminals away from your hard earned cash.  There’s no need to be frightened out of using your debit card but you should be aware of how better to protect yourself and how to avoid being a victim of “skimming.”  Also remember that using a debit card does not provide you with the same protection as a credit card.  Check with your bank and credit card company for specific guidelines.

BBB provides the following tips on how to be safe when using an ATM machine during the day and night and how to protect you from being a victim of ATM skimming:

• Always pay close attention to the ATM and your surroundings. Don't select an ATM at the corner of a building -- corners create a blind spot. Use an ATM located near the center of a building. Do your automated banking in a public, well-lighted location that is free of shrubbery and decorative partitions or dividers.

• Maintain an awareness of your surroundings throughout the entire transaction. Be wary of people trying to help you with ATM transactions. Be aware of anyone sitting in a parked car nearby. When leaving an ATM make sure you are not being followed. If you are, drive immediately to a police or fire station, or to a crowded, well-lighted location or business.

• Do not use an ATM that appears unusual looking or offers options with which you are not familiar or comfortable.

• Do not allow people to look over your shoulder as you enter your PIN. Memorize your PIN; never write it on the back of your card. Do not re-enter your PIN if the ATM eats your card - contact a bank official.

• Do not wear expensive jewelry or take other valuables to the ATM. This is an added incentive to the assailant.

• Never count cash at the machine or in public. Wait until you are in your car or another secure place.

• When using a drive-up ATM, keep your engine running, your doors locked and leave enough room to maneuver between your car and the one ahead of you in the drive-up line.

• Maintain a supply of deposit envelopes at home or in your car. Prepare all transaction paperwork prior to your arrival at the ATM. This will minimize the amount of time spent at the machine.

• Closely monitor your bank statements, as well as your balances, and immediately report any problems to your bank.

• If you are involved in a confrontation with an assailant who demands your money, COMPLY.
Using an ATM at Night:
• If possible, take another person with you.
• Park in a well-lighted area as close to the machine as possible.
• Do not use the machine if the lights on it are not working.
• If the view of the ATM machine is blocked by overgrown shrubbery or trees, or any other objects, use another machine.
• Notify the bank about the visibility problem.

How to Avoid being Skimmed
How skimming works

The devices planted on ATMs are usually undetectable by users—the makers of this equipment have become very adept at creating them, often from plastic or plaster, so that they blend right into the ATM’s façade. The specific device used is often a realistic-looking card reader placed over the factory-installed card reader. Customers insert their ATM card into the phony reader, and their account info is swiped and stored on a small attached laptop or cell phone or sent wirelessly to the criminals waiting nearby.

In addition, skimming typically involves the use of a hidden camera, installed on or near an ATM, to record customers’ entry of their PINs into the ATM’s keypad. We have also seen instances where, instead of a hidden camera, criminals attach a phony keypad on top of the real keypad ... which records every keystroke as customers punch in their PINs.

Skimming devices are installed for short periods of time—usually just a few hours—so they’re often attached to an ATM by nothing more than double-sided tape. They are then removed by the criminals, who download the stolen account information and encode it onto blank cards. The cards are used to make withdrawals from victims’ accounts at other ATMs.

- Inspect the ATM, gas pump, or credit card reader before using it…be suspicious if you see anything loose, crooked, or damaged, or if you notice scratches or adhesive/tape residue.

- When entering your PIN, block the keypad with your other hand to prevent possible hidden cameras from recording your number.

- If possible, use an ATM at an inside location (less access for criminals to install skimmers).

- Be careful of ATMs in tourist areas…they are a popular target of skimmers.

- If your card isn’t returned after the transaction or after hitting “cancel,” immediately contact the financial institution that issued the card.

For a company you can trust visit bbb.org.


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