10 Steps to Safer and Secure(r) ATM Transactions
The advent of Europay | Mastercard | Visa (EMV) cards in North America has caused a whole bunch of confusion regarding the security of credit and debit card transactions. The ability to further secure a transaction with encryption, PINs and other controls has reduced risk for some transactions, but done little for others.
And many EMV cards in the United States still have a magnetic stripe, which makes them vulnerable to the sale old-fashioned fraud and theft we’ve been dealing with for years. Much of this is made possible with skimming devices.
ATM “skimmers” have become cheap, effective and highly available. These criminal devices has created new risks for those of us who try to minimize direct, face-to-face human interaction or prefer to deal in cold, hard cash.
The reality is, you can’t always avoid using an ATM or point-of-sale device.
Most people don’t realize it, but using an ATM can still be a risky activity. And while it’s true that more banks are robbed online than in-person today, there are some simple steps you can take to make your banking transactions safer and more secure.
- Select an ATM at a bank, in a well-lit area. Do not use ATMs in hotels, convenience stores, malls or remote areas. Make your ATM trips during the day during high traffic periods. Use a drive-through is possible, your vehicle provides additional security and an effective escape route.
- If access to the ATM requires unlocking a door with a card, use a different card than what you’re about to use at the ATM. Any card with a magnetic stripe will work – use your library card or something with no value. Don’t use a card that stores your personal information in the magnetic stripe.
- Before swiping or inserting your card – check the ATM. Wiggle the card reader and the pin pad – they should not move at all. Look for anything else that looks out of place, like attachments, unidentified boxes or cameras or other modifications.
- Insert or swipe your card. Use your hand to cover the keypad when you enter your PIN. The idea is to block visibility by people behind you or cameras near the ATM.
- Make sure your PIN is random – not your birthday or anything else you’ve posted on social media. Change it once per year, or whenever you think it may have been compromised.
- Conduct your transaction. Know what you want before you get there so you don’t have to waste time at the ATM. Avoid multiple, time-consuming withdrawals that could keep you there longer than necessary.
- “Get off the X.” Don’t count your money at the ATM – even if there is an error you can’t do anything about it there anyway. Check your surroundings and maintain situational awareness. Move with a purpose.
- Report any problems to the bank that owns the ATM.
- Check your bank statement – it should match your receipts and ATM activity.
- Remember that gas pumps, car washes and other payment terminals are just as vulnerable to compromise as ATMs! Use these same steps – and some common sense to reduce your risk of problems.
If you’re curious about what’s actually stored on your credit cards, drivers licenses and other cards with magnetic stripes, check out Wikipedia for more information.