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By Nick Davis

ATM safety

Automated teller machines, also known as ATMs, are quick, convenient and enable you to process a variety of banking transactions. Transactions include making withdrawals, deposits and even payments on loans and credit cards. ATMs let you conduct business using a variety of languages. You need to be careful, though, to avoid being robbed or becoming a victim of identity theft.

Personal identification number and using an ATM

In order to use an ATM, you must have a debit or credit card issued by your bank or credit card provider. You also need a personal identification number, or PIN, that is assigned to that specific debit or credit card. The PIN is usually at minimum four digits and acts as a password to access your financial account. You can obtain a PIN for your card by contacting your bank or credit card provider. To use an ATM, insert your debit or credit card into the machine's card slot — the slot is usually labeled with a picture of a credit card. Enter your PIN into the machine's keypad when prompted by the screen. Make sure no one is looking over your shoulder when you are entering your PIN. Your PIN is a secret and you need to make sure to shield the ATM's keypad when entering this number. Next, press the option you want to use on the machine's touch screen: "withdrawal," "deposit," "balance inquiry" or other option. Follow the on-screen prompts to complete your transaction. If making a withdrawal, take your money out of the machine immediately and place it in your wallet or purse. If you want to count the money, do it quickly in your car and out of sight of others.

The ATM will prompt you at the end of your transaction with the question "Are you finished?" or something similar. Always answer "Yes" when you are done to keep other ATM users from accessing your account. Take your transaction receipt and debit or credit card out of the machine and put the items in your wallet or purse as soon as possible. If the machine keeps your debit or credit card, contact the ATM's official bank — contact information is on the front of the ATM.


Preparation is the key when getting ready to use an ATM. Have your card ready, and if you want to make a deposit, have the check signed or the cash ready. Most banks do not require a deposit envelope anymore. If your bank does require a deposit envelope, have it ready and the deposit slip written out and enclosed within the envelope.

Surroundings and safety

Try to visit your ATM during the daytime and use an ATM that is on a busy street. Or take a friend with you. When you first pull up or walk up to the ATM, observe your surroundings. Avoid ATMs with suspicious persons or groups standing around the machines. If someone tries to help you with the ATM, immediately leave that machine. Also, avoid ATMs at the corner of a building. Corners present blind spots. Instead, select an ATM near the center of a building. Observe everything — bushes or other things close to the ATM and parked cars with people sitting in them. If you have to visit an ATM at night, select one in a well-lighted location. If the area seems sketchy, avoid it. Maintain an awareness always, even after you leave the ATM. If you are being followed, immediately go to a fire or police station. Do not go to your house or apartment.

Securing your PIN and recognizing fake ATMs

You need to protect your debit/credit card and PIN at all times. Memorize the PIN. Do not write it on the back of the card, on a little slip of paper or on any other document. Do not leave your debit/credit card in your car or unsecured. Treat the card like cash and store it in a safe place. If the card is lost or stolen, contact your bank or credit card provider. When you first approach an ATM, make sure the machine doesn't show physical damage, sticky residue or adhesive used by criminals to attach skimming devices. If you notice residue or anything attached to the ATM, avoid that ATM. If the ATM is damaged in any way, avoid it. Also, avoid ATMs that have excessive scratches, crooked pieces, extra card slots or noticeable resistance when you are trying to insert your card or enter your PIN into the keypad.

Using drive-up ATMs

When using a drive-up ATM, roll up all your windows except the driver's side window, lock all your doors and keep your vehicle's engine running. Drive close to the side of the ATM and be aware of your surroundings. Also, leave enough room between your car and the one ahead of you to make an escape if someone suspicious approaches you. Like at a walk-up ATM, be prepared and complete your transaction as quickly as possible.

Follow-up procedures

After you use an ATM, monitor your bank statement and balance to make sure the transaction posted correctly. Report any problems to your bank or credit card provider. Also, keep your ATM receipts until your statement comes in showing the same transaction amounts. Never give out any information about your debit/credit card to anyone calling you posing as a bank, police or credit card company. Notify the police immediately.

Confrontations and resolutions

If you are the victim of a confrontation, comply with the robber's demands and immediately call or go to your area police station. Do not try to fight the attacker. Once at the police station, file a report and report the incident to your bank. Your bank will freeze your account and issue a new debit or credit card as well as a new PIN.

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