Automated Teller Machines (or ATMs) are among the most popular methods for people to get cash out of their checking accounts. Naturally, this has attracted a number of criminals that are interested in gaining access to such cash quickly and easily. There are many ways that criminals can do this, but practical security measures can help you avoid running into any problems.
The most popular form of theft is through a technique known as skimming. This involves inserting a device into the card slot of ATMs that will steal the data right off your card’s magnetic strip. The highest risk machines for this type of practice are convenience stores that are allowed to maintain their own ATMs as they can be easily tampered with without the bank knowing. The best way to prevent this is to use bank ATMs as much as possible.
Other thieves have gone through more extreme measures and actually installed software on a banking server that can capture the electronic encrypted PIN number as it passes through, but such instances are very rare. Again, this can be avoided by simply using the ATM machines located at your bank’s branch. These are closely watched with security cameras and never tampered with by criminals.
Ultimately, a criminal will need your PIN number in order to access your account. As a result, one great way to reduce your risk is to change your PIN number often and keep it as random as possible. People that use the same number for multiple accounts can see more than just one of their accounts drained. Meanwhile, those that have a PIN number equal to their birthday or house number see a higher rate of crime.
One final piece of advice deals with making online purchases. It is always best to use your credit card whenever possible because they are required to assume nearly 100% of the liability in most cases. Debit cards, on the other hand, often assume little or no liability and you can be stuck footing the fraud bill. Also, you will never be required to enter your PIN number online – anyone that asks you to do so is trying to rip you off!
The bottom line is that there are basic measures that you can take to protect yourself from becoming a victim of ATM fraud. Using your local bank’s ATMs and changing your PIN often can reduce your chances to nearly zero while making online purchases with a credit card can protect you in that arena. Remember these tips your next time using an ATM!