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ATM Safety: What is Your Bank Doing to Protect You?

When you slide your debit card into an Automated Teller Machine (ATM), punch in your Personal Identification Number (PIN), select the amount of cash you’d like, and walk away with your cash and card without, you probably don’t really give any thought to the process that just took place.

Parts of our daily lives have become so habitual that we seldom stop to really consider them and how they work. Millions of ATM transactions go off without a hitch each day, with the correct amount of money dispensed from the right account, which is a big reason why we rarely give this transaction much thought.

Security Designs of ATMs

The physical design and setup of an ATM is a deliberate process, designed to give patrons a high level of comfort while using them. Each ATM in each financial institution’s network is equipped with a motion-sensing surveillance video camera that captures images of the person standing in front of the ATM. The video footage is stored by the financial institution and can be retrieved as evidence in support of any transaction taking place at that ATM.

Anti-glare screens placed at strategic angles are also used to ensure that others waiting in line to use the ATM can’t see what is on the screen. This gives each user an additional layer of protection and comfort.

Shielded number pads are also in place, which means anyone on either side of the person currently using the ATM cannot see the numbers being pressed. Additionally, the person using the keypad is typically in front of the number pad, blocking it from those behind the patron in line.

Physical Anti-Fraud Measures

Even with all these physical safety considerations taken into account, one of the greatest concerns for anyone entering personal information into an ATM, and thereby gaining full access to their money, is that someone is electronically reading and capturing personal banking information.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) this is known as “ATM skimming.” This is accomplished by the placement of sophisticated electronic equipment attached to an ATM for the purpose of “scooping” or collecting the data contained on the electronic strip on the backs of ATM cards.

Many security companies, like ADT, as well as the internal fraud departments of financial institutions, take the issue of skimming seriously and created solutions specifically designed to detect the presence of skimming devices attached to, and sometimes above, ATMs.

Virtual Anti-Fraud Measures

Many Americans have made the transition to electronic payments for a variety of reasons, the least of which is convenience. Having access to $10,000 in your checking account with a plastic card is far more convenient and practical than carrying that cash around.

Financial institutions, however, don’t see much of a difference between the two, which means they have to protect their customers from fraudulent transactions that can occur by way of skimming, lost cards, and stolen information.

The prevalence of debit cards in our society has prompted the Federal Reserve to create a wide range of consumer protection laws, as well as to craft laws that allow prosecutors to effectively punish those who commit this type of fraud.

When you report your debit card lost or stolen, or have legitimately become a victim of some type of fraud associated with your debit card, you will only be liable for the first $50 any fraudulent charge or ATM withdrawal. Some banks, like Bank of America will waive the $50 liability in many instances.

Protect Yourself Against Fraud

Regardless of what our financial institutions or the federal government do to fight against financial fraud, none of it matters if we’re careless about our personal information. Wherever there are people with money, there are also criminals scheming to get that money, which means we need to protect ourselves against them.

Here are some tips to help protect your identity, as well as your money, at the ATM:

  • Be aware of your surroundings. Are there people lurking? Do you have an uneasy feeling you can’t quite pin down? If so, find another ATM. Five additional minutes of your time to find a different ATM can be the difference between a safe transaction and criminal activity.
  • Use indoor ATMs. Many financial institutions, as well as local stores, have indoor ATMs. Use these whenever possible, opting for a drive-up ATM as your second choice.
  • Opt for daytime transactions in general, and particularly at standalone ATMs.
  • Complete your transactions as quickly as possible. Have deposit slips filled out, know how much you want to withdrawal, and go about your business with an air of authority.
  • Keep your PIN to yourself. The moment you divulge your PIN to another person—even a child or parent—you’ve lost a measure of control over your personal information.
  • Don’t easily give out your personal information over the internet, including card numbers, account numbers, PINs, and social security numbers.
  • Be aware of email scams. If it sounds too good to be true—and they all do—run the other direction. Nothing good can come from sending your personal and financial information to someone who sent an email asking you to divulge it to them.

Financial institutions and security companies are doing what they can to protect your money, identity, and personal information. The rest is on us, and most of it comes down to common sense. If you find yourself the least bit uncomfortable for whatever reasons, trust your judgment and walk away.

What other ATM safety tips do you have?

Images from MoneyBlogNewz & Wonderlane.