Safety Tips at the ATM

Terry McFadden

ATMs have been become an important part of everyday life, and just about everyone has a bank account and uses their ATM card on a regular basis—a fact of life that robbers have grown aware of.

When ATMs first came on the scene, users had to just worry about their personal safety.

But in this age of modern technology, people now have to be concerned about what happens even if no one approaches a person while they use the ATM.

Three million people a year are victimized using an ATM in this country, and most of those cases involve a person being robbed of cash while being physically threatened.

The first rule of thumb is do not resist. Officials say it is better to give up a little bit of money if you have to than put yourself in physical danger, which is why it's important to first assess the surroundings when using an ATM.

Another piece of advice is to only use ATMs in areas that are busy and well lit.

Lt. Cindy Kilgore of Michiana Crime Stoppers Inc. says it is even better and safer to use a drive-up AT, “Because then you're in the cover of your car, which you should keep locked and the other windows up besides the ones the window you're doing business from.

There is even a right and a wrong way to pull up to the machine.

Lt. Kilgore advises folks to avoid pulling up right behind if there is a car ahead of you in line, “to allow yourself room to make an easy getaway. If something should go on. There are situations where somebody may be stopped ahead of you and an accomplice may pull in behind you, blocking you in and further victimizing you.”

There is also a growing and disturbing trend where thieves are now able to access people’s money without putting a gun to anyone’s head thanks to a new technology called “skimmers.”

“The skimmers are devices that some criminals have figured out how to cap on to where the card reader is, and the skimmer will grab the information from the magnetic strip on your card,” Lt. Kilgore says.

She added, “When you go to use your a-t-m, shield the keypad because often accompanying the skimmers is a pinhole camera that the offender may have affixed somewhere on the face of the ATM again it's very hard to detect. So, while the skimmer's grabbing the information from the magnetic strip, the pinhole camera is watching what you're doing.”

They could also be recording the pin number of a debit card.

Just like it is important to assess the area surrounding the ATM to ensure physical safety, officials say it is now important to be aware of the machine itself, especially if it is older.

“One of the newer ATMs, you can feel under here that it's all smooth. And if there were to be a pinhole camera affixed to it, it would be very hard to look down and on to the keypad. Nevertheless, it's a good idea to get into the practice of shielding your pin as you enter it,” Kilgore warns, “One way to make sure your information hasn't been compromised is to keep tabs on your bank account almost on a daily basis to look for any suspicious activity.”

It is much easier to check up on bank statements thanks to online banking and apps.

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