How Secure Are ATM's?

How secure are ATM's? Be aware of free-standing ATM machines and gas station or convenient store ATMs. Automated teller machines have made banking convenient for everyone. Automated teller machines are electronic...

Automated teller machines have made banking convenient for everyone. Automated teller machines are electronic devices that allow a bank's customers to withdraw money, check account balances and do other banking transactions outside of the bank. Some machines allow people to deposit cash or checks, transfer money between their accounts or even buy postage stamps. With ATM's everywhere, people can travel and know that their money is just a swipe away.

"ATM's offer consumers a great deal of convenience, and can also be used safely by following some simple rules," says Lori Lamb, a credit correction and education supervisor with Springboard Non-Profit Consumer Credit Management. She has worked in the credit industry for 12 years.

When using an ATM, be aware of free standing-machines, ATM's at gas stations or convenience stores.

"A news report recently said that it is easy to purchase ATM's if you own a business," says Lamb. "A news station placed ATM's in a lobby and thieves were taking pictures of people's card numbers, and capturing PIN numbers that were entered. After the thieves got the pin number, they stole tons of money within a matter of seconds."

Make sure that nobody can see you entering your personal information when you are at an ATM. Use your body to block viewers from seeing what you are entering or watching how much money was withdrawn. Also, make sure there are no additional devices on the machine. Thieves are finding new ways to replicate ATM machines and are stealing ATM users' money once the individual enters all the necessary information into the computer. Look to see if anything is different about the machine; if so, walk away and use a different one.

"I would suggest you always use your regular bank or an ATM in a reputable place because one can easily get scammed when using an ATM in an unfamiliar place," says Lamb.

According to, to keep your account number confidential, take the receipt or transaction records with you. Ideally, a person would keep the receipts to balance their account monthly because bank errors do occur. However, shred the papers after they are no longer needed. If you don't own a shredder, then tear the receipts thoroughly so a thief cannot get your account number or know how much money is in the account.

Also, safeguard the pin number as you would a social security number. The pin is the key that unlocks the ATM card to dispense cash.

"Don't write it down on a piece of paper and then place that in your wallet or purse, because if it gets stolen, then thief can get all the cash you have," says Lamb. If a person is watching your transaction at an ATM, then cancel the transaction immediately and walk away.

If the debit card was left behind accidentally, call the bank immediately. If the bank is closed, then call as soon as the branch opens. If the card was left behind with no pin number known, then a thief cannot have access to your account. Cards left in machines are typically useless for a thief if they do not know the pin number.

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