ATM Safety 15 Tips for a Safe Transaction

By Mike Peterson
In November 2, 2016

Here’s a fun fact about ATMs: Did you know that the patent for the first cash machine was filed in October of 1971? That’s right: The ubiquitous ATM machine became common in the U.S. in the early seventies – the very first ones were located in New York City.

Since this month represents a 15 year milestone of sorts for the American cash machine, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to share a few ATM safety tips. Here’s a list of 15 ways to keep your money and your personal information safe at the ATM:

  1. Location matters. When possible, choose ATM machines that are inside buildings. If you have to use an outdoor machine, avoid machines located on a corner, which make it easy for would-be skimmers or scammers to sneak up on you.
  2. Look for light. Always opt for ATMs that are well-lit and not surrounded by bushes or hidden by signs or other obstructions.
  3. Lock your car doors. If you’re using a drive-through ATM, make sure that your doors are locked and all of your passenger windows are rolled up. And leave your engine running so you can get in and out as quickly as possible.
  4. Park close to the machine. You should park as close to the machine as you can – and lock your car doors as soon as you get out.
  5. Get your card out early. Your goal should be to spend as little time as possible standing in front of a cash machine. One way to do this is to get your card out before you get to the machine so you don’t have to stand there digging through your purse or wallet.
  6. Bring a friend. The more the merrier, right? And safer. Bringing a buddy when you stop at an ATM is always a good idea.
  7. Know your PIN. If you’re going to use an ATM, this is a must. You should never, ever carry your PIN number around with you. It’s best if you don’t even write it down. Pick a number you’ll remember (but nothing too obvious, like “1234”).
  8. Watch out for skimming devices. Skimming is the latest in tech-savvy theft. Devices often look like they are part of the ATM or card reader – but you can spot them if you know what to look for. Watch out for any loose or ill-fitting parts on the card reader or PIN pad – also look for parts that vary slightly in color or that look like they were installed recently.
  9. Count your cash later. Wait until you are in a safe place. Never count your cash while you’re standing at the ATM.
  10. Don’t forget your receipt. Better safe than sorry. Even if your account number is XX-ed out, your receipt might have other information like your name and your bank balance.
  11. Be aware and alert. Before you use an ATM, look around and make sure you don’t see anything suspicious. A person who seems aware of their surroundings is much less likely to be targeted by a criminal.
  12. Turn down random offers of “help.” If you’re having trouble with the machine, don’t accept any offers of help from strangers – they might be after your account number. If you’re at a bank during business hours, talk to someone there. If there’s no one around, walk away.
  13. Don’t let people look over your shoulder. Use your hand or your whole body to prevent others from watching you enter your PIN number or sneaking a peek at your bank balance.
  14. End your transaction. When you withdraw or deposit cash at an ATM, the transaction ends with a question – usually some variation of, “Would you like another transaction?” or “Can we help you with anything else today?” If you’re finished doing what you needed to do, make sure you select “NO” and get your card back before you walk away.
  15. Be extra-careful at night. Days are getting shorter now that it’s fall – and darkness creates more opportunities for people looking to steal your money or your PIN. If you stop at the ATM after the sun goes down, take extra precautions. Don’t stop at a machine that isn’t well-lit, and double-check your surroundings.

Stay safe out there! And remember, you can always reach out to Debt Guru for more advice about money, budgeting, and credit cards. Contact the Debt Guru team today for a free debt relief consultation.

Mike is the author of “Reality Millionaire: Proven Tips to Retire Rich” and he has been published in a variety of local and national publications including Entrepreneur Magazine, Deseret Morning News, LDS Living Magazine, and Physicians Money Digest. He holds a B.S. in business administration from the University of Phoenix.

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