While ATMs have added some convenience to our lives, a few risks have also popped up. ATMs give criminals another opportunity to get at your money, and you should take steps to reduce your risk. Most of us can stay out of trouble with simple common sense, but you should periodically review some proven tactics. Follow these seven steps, and you'll improve your odds against the scamsters.
Now, if you need a refresher on actually using the machine, see How to Use an ATM.
Look Around Before You Approach
Take a quick look at your surroundings. See if anybody or anything looks suspicious. Is anybody watching you or standing too close? They might be looking for somebody who's got cash (or is about to have cash very soon).
Use ATMs That You're Familiar With
If you know an area well and have used an ATM before, you can expect similar results. In other words, your chances of getting robbed at a 'familiar' ATM are less than your chances of getting robbed at a 'new' ATM. There are a variety of reasons for this, but the point to stick with a trusted source.
Look Over the Machine Before Inserting Your Card
If you see something that looks unfamiliar on the machine, it could be part of an ATM scam. Card skimmers (external readers) and hidden cameras can be used to compromise a bank account. Bottom line: if it looks funny, look for another ATM.
Lock Your Doors and Secure Windows at Automobile ATMs
We've all heard the stories about carjacking. Think how much more attractive you are as a target with cash-in-hand. When your car is stopped and you're picking up cash, just take the half-second required to lock the doors and keep crooks out. Park as close as possible to the ATM so that you don't have to get out of your vehicle (nor do you need to literally stick your neck out to reach the ATM).
Have Your Card Ready While Approaching the ATM
If you're quick, your chances are better. On the other hand, you're exposing yourself unnecessarily if you stand around the ATM digging through your wallet or purse for that special card. Get it out before you leave your car or as you're approaching the ATM and get your transaction started as soon as possible.
Use ATMs That are Well Lit and Safe
Have you ever had to swipe your ATM (or Credit/Debit) card to get into an ATM booth after hours? One of the reasons is that only somebody with a valid card can get through the door. This makes it less likely that an 'undesirable' will approach you just as your cash is coming out. Obviously this is not foolproof -- a crook can steal somebody's card and use it immediately.
Get Cash Out of Sight
This is pretty obvious, but some people need to be more conscious. After you get your cash, get it out of sight. Whether it's a lot of money or a little, cash can be tempting when it's out in the open.