Safety & Security

December 20, 2021

Using an ATM is a simple process — insert your card, punch in your PIN and withdraw your money. However, this simple task can open you and your finances up to certain dangers if you’re not careful.

Although ATM robberies are rare, criminals have invented some creative ways to steal your money and even your identity in these settings. What may seem like a simple second-nature activity can leave you vulnerable to theft in an instant. Fortunately, you and your bank can both take several effective safety measures before, during and after an ATM deposit or withdrawal to ensure your money remains in your hands — and not someone else’s.

Protecting Your Debit/ATM Card

While it’s essential to practice safety tips while using an ATM, there are ways to keep your debit/ATM card safe while at home or on the go. Some ATM safety precautions to practice include:

  • Store your card in a safe place: Keep your debit/ATM card in a safe place similar to where you would keep cash, credit cards and checks.
  • Do not leave your card out in the open: Do not leave your debit/ATM card in open spaces where others can have access to it.
  • Report theft or misplacement as soon as possible: Immediately notify the bank if you lose or card or someone steals it from you.
  • Do not give out your personal identification number (PIN): Keep your PIN to access your account at the ATM a secret. Never write this number down, especially on your debit/ATM card.
  • Avoid telephone scams: Never give information about your debit/ATM card over the telephone. If you receive a call from your bank asking you to verify your account, this is a scam, and you should notify the police immediately.
  • Check your receipts: After withdrawing money from the ATM, compare your receipts with your monthly statement to protect yourself against ATM fraud.

ATM Safety Features You Need to Know

Financial institutions have several safety features already enacted to secure your money — and your personal information. Make sure the ATMs you use have several safety features in place before trusting them with your transactions:

  • Surveillance cameras: It’s standard for ATMs to have built-in security cameras. Banks and police can then see who is using the machine and what they are doing with it.
  • Chip security: Today, most bank cards employ chip security as an extra layer of card protection. This feature makes it harder for thieves to successfully skim a card.
  • PIN pad covers: Many ATMs feature PIN pad covers. Although not completely effective, they reduce external visibility around a PIN pad when in use.
  • Alarms: Most banks and other institutions equip their ATMs with alarm systems triggered by moving, shoving or tampering with the machine.
  • Your bank’s help number: If you run into problems at an ATM or think your information is at risk, you can call your bank’s help number for access to immediate help.

Environmental Safety Factors

Before heading to your local ATM, consider the physical area around the machine. Several environmental factors can make a difference in your and your information’s safety, so these tips are essential to keep in mind before you proceed with a transaction:

  • Use an ATM during daylight hours: If possible, always use an ATM when it’s light out. Robberies are far more likely to happen at night when fewer people surround the ATM’s location and visibility is poor. If you have to use an ATM at night, choose a machine in a well-lit public area, preferably indoors.
  • Avoid isolated or obscured ATMs: ATM robberies are more likely to happen in remote areas covered by shadows or other structures. Avoid using machines in these environments since bystanders will be less likely to catch any criminal activity.
  • Avoid ATMs in unfamiliar or suspicious locations: Since using an ATM is a vulnerable activity, avoid ones in locationsthat make you feel uncomfortable or where you sense someone watching your actions. Preferably, stick with a machine you’re already familiar with.
  • Make sure all the lights on the machine are working: If you see an ATM with any lights out or other visibly broken features, find another machine. Well-lit ATMs are less-frequent targets for criminal activity, and they’re more likely to function properly. Non-working lights may also indicate that someone has tampered with the machine.

Staying Safe While Approaching the ATM

Whether you are driving up to an ATM or approaching it on foot, observe the surrounding area to ensure you’ll be safe throughout the entire transaction. Keep yourself safe as you approach an ATM by:

  • Observe the area: When approaching the ATM, scan the area for anything suspicious. Dangerous behavior can include two or more people in a nearby vehicle who appear to be watching the ATM or someone who seems to be standing around the ATM for no obvious reason.
  • Avoid ATMs with bushes: If bushes are blocking the ATM or preventing others from clearly viewing it, do not use the machine, especially after dark.
  • Choose the ATM in the center of the building: Choosing an ATM on the corner will create a blind area during your transaction. If possible, always select an ATM in the center of the building to prevent any surprises from assailants.

Safety While Using and Leaving an ATM

Once you decide a location is safe and an ATM is ready to use, you should still keep several general safety tips in mind as you complete your transaction and leave the area:

  • Have your card ready: Have your ATM card in your hand or pocket when you approach the machine so that you don’t waste time rummaging through your bag or wallet. Don’t give thieves time to act. If you’re making a deposit, endorse all checks and secure all cash properly in a deposit envelope beforehand.
  • Scan the machine for suspicious devices or blocked security cameras: Nearly all ATMs have a security camera built into the system, and a major tactic that thieves use to steal your information at ATMs is obscuring security cameras and installing pin-grabbing cameras. You should always quickly scan the ATM before you use it. If you notice anything suspicious or out of place, leave the area and alert the institution.
  • Check for card skimmers: A card skimmer is a device hackers will attach to the card reader of an ATM to steal the information from your card after inserting it into the machine. If you notice the card reader is not tightly secured, the slot is a different color than your bank’s branded colors, the keyboard feels too thick, or you cannot easily press the buttons, these are signs a skimmer is in place.
  • Cover the PIN pad when entering your PIN: Even if no one is standing directly behind you, you should still cover the PIN pad when entering your information. Thieves can install tiny pin-grabbing cameras on the machine that capture your PIN as you enter it. Even an ATM PIN cover doesn’t block all visibility.
  • Leave your car locked: Always lock your car before approaching an ATM. If you’re in a drive-thru, lock your car doors and roll up all windows besides the one you’re using.
  • Put the money away immediately: Don’t give anyone an opportunity to grab your cash after you take it out of the ATM. Put it away promptly and count it later.
  • Always take your receipt: Remember always to grab your receipt after using an ATM. It may contain information that could enable criminals to steal your account or even your identity.
  • Go straight to your car and drive off: Once you receive your cash and receipt, get in your car immediately and leave the location.

Other ATM Safety Tips

For the utmost safety before, during and after you use an unfamiliar ATM, add these final safety steps to your visit:

  • Bring another person with you: If you’re able, it’s always best to bring a buddy along to ATM visits for extra security.
  • Know what to do if the machine malfunctions: If the ATM malfunctions, hit the Cancel button and leave right away. Then, notify your bank of the error.
  • Call the police and your bank if you notice anything suspicious: If you think you may have come across any criminal activity when using an ATM, contact the police immediately and notify your bank of your concerns.

Enjoy Safe Banking With PeoplesBank

When you entrust a financial institution with your finances and identity, you deserve to know your bank cares about your safety. If you’re looking for a bank that will put your security concerns first, PeoplesBank is here to serve you. We have multiple secure ATM locations throughout South Central Pennsylvania and Central Maryland.Contact a member of our team today to learn more.


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