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ATM Customer Safety

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What are some of the best ways for our customers to protect themselves against ATM crime?

Fortune Magazine – citing a report in the Wall Street Journal that stated: “withdrawing money from an ATM is more dangerous than it’s been in a long time – specifically, the worst it has been in two decades” – published "5 Easy Ways to Avoid Getting Hacked at ATMs" that you can share with your customers:

  1. Cover up your personal identification number. Shielding the ATM keypad as you type in a security code will prevent onlookers from capturing your PIN. It’s a simple solution according to Fortune, but one of the best ways to thwart “shoulder surfers” from stealing your passcode. Watch for video cameras too.
  2. Check for compromised ATMs. One of the most popular means by which criminals steal payment card data is through a device called a “skimmer”. Crooks might plant on of these gadgets on the “swipe” or “insert” ports of an ATM, where it can read the magnetic strip on a card and rip its data.
  3. Use ATMs on bank premises. ATMs that are located on-site of your bank are better secured and less easily tampered with than those outside.
  4. Limit exposure. Using ATMs less frequently will lessen the risk of encountering a bad machine.
  5. Promptly notify the bank of any bad transactions. Notify your bank immediately if you find any questionable transactions.

WikiHow to do anything...also outlines a number of safety recommendations in an article titled “How to Stay Safe at an ATM” that included:

  1. Choose a safe ATM. Select an ATM in a busy, well lit area. Ideally, there should be plenty of people around and enough light for everyone to see. Don’t use ATMs in deserted areas, even if it is well lit.
  2. Use an ATM in the morning. This will minimize the likelihood of being robbed, because chances are better that there will be plenty of people around. Also, robbers tend to prefer the cover of darkness over the light of the day. Avoid using ATMs at night whenever possible. If you must use one after dark, use one that is well lit and near a busy road or business.
  3. Bring a friend to the ATM. Robbers usually prefer to target isolated individuals, as opposed to groups of two or more.
  4. Lock all your doors and roll up your windows when using a drive-up ATM. Only roll down your window when necessary – and as little as possible.
  5. Watch for any suspicious activity around you at an ATM. Keep your eyes open for anything out of the ordinary, and trust your instincts. If something feels off, assume a problem and go elsewhere.
  6. Do not count your money near the ATM. Weigh the minimal chance that the ATM dispensed the wrong amount of cash versus the huge enticement this activity offers to a robber. Just pocket cash quickly and go.
  7. Run away if you can safely do so. If a robbery attempt seems imminent, or you sense that you can safely escape from a robbery in progress, then run. You may even want to throw your wallet or cash on the ground – remember that is what the bad guy wants.
  8. Comply with the robber’s demands. If you are cornered, caught off guard, or the criminal has a weapon, compliance is almost always your safest option. Do not try to be a hero – do what the robbers say and give up your cash.

By implementing effective security measures, such as installing surveillance cameras, your bank can help ensure the safety of your customers at your ATMs.

This Q&A originally appeared in Bankers' Hotline. For more information, sample issues, and to subscribe, click here or email

First published on 10/31/2021

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