How to Safely and Securely Use ATMs

There were more than 470,135 automated teller machines (ATMs) in the United States as of 2018 (the most recent year for which data is available), 191,741 of which were held by banks, and 278,394 of which were owned individually.

Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) make it easy and handy to withdraw money, check balances and perform other types of transactions, but they are also potential targets for criminal activities. In the United States, there is no regularly collected national data on crimes connected to automated teller machines (ATMs).

According to Claims Journal’s findings, however, Travelers Insurance recorded a 220% spike in “smash and grab” ATM robberies from 2019 to 2020.

Because of the COVID-19 epidemic, the landscape of banking is changing to encourage customers to use ATMs more often rather than going to the teller window. It is more critical than before to prioritize safety.


ATMs provide a convenient method to access your money, but they are also a potential target for thieves because of their location.
When utilizing an automated teller machine (ATM) provided by your bank or another provider, it is in your best interest to have a working knowledge of fundamental safety and security procedures.
In addition to being used directly in assaults by criminals, automated teller machines (ATMs) may also be used indirectly to defraud bank clients of their money or personal information.
If you have reason to think that an ATM is being used fraudulently, you should immediately contact your bank in order to prevent further financial damage from illegal transactions.

The Proper Way to Utilize Automatic Teller Machines

Using common sense is the first step in ensuring your safety at an automated teller machine. In light of this, the following are a few of the most critical safety guidelines to remember while using automated teller machines (ATMs).

  • Take note of your surroundings. Knowing your location is the first step in visiting an ATM in complete safety. Using an automated teller machine (ATM) that is located in a well-lit location that is frequented by a lot of people, for instance, may be safer than using an ATM that is hidden away in a dimly lighted region that is out of the way. Be on the lookout for potential blind spots, such as corners and alcoves, which might hide an intruder from your line of sight.
  • When it’s convenient for you, use the automated teller machine (ATM) at your bank. Freestanding ATMs, such as the ones you would find in grocery shops or malls, may be simpler for thieves to tamper with than an ATM that is situated at your bank. This is because criminals can simply move the machine to a different location and access it from there. For instance, crooks may be able to attach gadgets that might steal your personal identification number (also known as a PIN) or account number. If the automated teller machine (ATM) at your bank is monitored by bank security cameras and is not readily accessible to those who are not clients of the bank, then going to your bank to use the ATM may reduce some of the associated hazards.
  • Examine the apparatus carefully. If you are using an automated teller machine (ATM) that is not associated with your bank, you should give it a cursory inspection to search for anything that seems to be out of place. If the keypad is loose or shaky, a key is stuck, or the on-screen instructions are different from what you are accustomed to seeing at an ATM, this might be an indication that it has been tampered with by a con artist who is trying to steal your money.
  • If they are available to you, make use of the built-in security mechanisms. Choose an automated teller machine (ATM) that is positioned inside of a covered vestibule and needs your card to enter over an ATM that is accessible to anybody who walks or drives up to it. Make sure the door shuts behind you, and if someone who doesn’t have a card begs you to allow them in, you shouldn’t let them in. Also, make sure the door closes behind you.
  • Maintain your distance from me. When using an ATM in a public place, maintain a comfortable distance from other people while you are doing so. It is important that no one stands too closely behind you since they may be able to see your personal identification number (PIN) when you input it. You should also avoid putting your personal identification number (PIN) on the back of your card since doing so might make you an easy target for theft in the event that your card is lost or stolen.
  • Always be alert to what is going on around you. Be aware of your surroundings whenever you use an automated teller machine. For instance, make a mental note of the individuals who appear to be loitering near the machine or who are constantly strolling by it. After you exit the ATM, be on the lookout for anybody who could be following you in a parked car or any cars that might seem to be following you.
    Maintain your safety when at the drive-through. Keep your doors closed and your engine running if you pull up to an ATM that has a drive-through lane. Maintain the open windows, with the exception of the one you’re using to log into the system.
  • Don’t get out of the car under any circumstances, even if the ATM swallows your card and refuses to give it back to you.
    Don’t linger. When going to the ATM, you should think about what you need to do ahead of time so that you can get in and out of there as soon as possible. In the event that you need to make a deposit, you may save time at the ATM by preparing your deposit envelope at home. Do not count cash while standing close to the machine; wait until you can move to a more secure location before beginning the process. For instance, if you drove to the ATM, you should wait until you have returned to your vehicle and closed the doors before attempting to steal anything from it. Don’t worry about it if you have to hold off till you get back to your house. The bank is aware of the security dangers that are associated with ATMs, and they should be able to comprehend the delay in reporting an error.
  • Always remember to save your receipts. If you use an ATM, always be sure to receive a receipt for your transaction, and then later compare that receipt to the one that appears on your bank statement. If you used your debit or ATM card at a machine that you don’t regularly use, this might assist you to notice any mistakes or possible fraud that may have occurred. (It may also assist you in obtaining reimbursement for expenses incurred while using an ATM that is not affiliated with your bank.) Never forget to take a receipt with you. There are several places where you may request that your receipt be sent to you.
    Put your faith in your gut impulses. Trust your instincts if something doesn’t seem quite right about an automated teller machine (ATM), a transaction, or someone who is close. Cancel the transaction, and then leave as soon as possible. Whether you believe that someone is following you, go to a public place where you will be secure, such as a crowded supermarket or the lobby of a hotel, and then contact 911 to see if the person who is following you is still there. If you are in a vehicle, you should go to the closest police station as soon as possible.

What to Do in the Event That Your Debit Card or ATM Card Is Stolen

If the thief is able to access your accounts using the stolen ATM or debit card, you may be responsible for any resulting financial losses. It is imperative that you notify the bank as quickly as possible in the event that your card is either misplaced or stolen. This might assist to reduce the amount of responsibility you have to pay for losses. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) of the United States of America lays forth the following criteria for losses:

Lost or Stolen ATM and Debit Card Liability Limits
 If You Report Your Maximum Loss
Before unauthorized charges are made $0
Within two business days of learning about the loss or theft $50
More than two business days after you learn about the loss or theft but less than 60 calendar days after your statement is sent to you  $500
More than 60 calendar days after your statement is sent to you All the money taken from your ATM/debit card account and possibly more, such as money in accounts linked to your debit account

As can be seen, the longer you wait to report a lost or stolen ATM or debit card, the more responsibility you end up holding for any unlawful withdrawals or transactions. This is because the longer you wait, the more likely it is that the card was stolen. When making transactions, you should give consideration to using credit rather than debit cards since credit cards often provide better liability protection than debit cards do.

You are required to inform the authorities if the theft of your ATM or debit card was the result of a criminal attack at an automated teller machine (ATM). It is critical that you provide law police with as many specifics as you can about the individual who stole your card in order to assist them in identifying the thief.

A Final Tip

One last piece of advice for maintaining your safety at an automated teller machine is to investigate other methods of doing financial business. If you need to deposit a check, for instance, you could utilize a drive-up teller window or, if your bank has a mobile check deposit option, you may use it instead. If your bank does not provide either of these options, you should contact customer service. If you owe money to a friend and need to send cash, you may use the person-to-person payment option offered by your bank to make the transfer. If you think about it in this way, you won’t have to use automated teller machines (ATMs) nearly as frequently, which lowers the risk of being targeted by criminals. When looking around for the finest checking accounts, you should keep those types of qualities in mind when you compare options.

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