10 ways to protect yourself from illegal ATM withdrawals
In the past weeks, several instances of ATM fraud and illegal cash withdrawals have been reported in the media. Dozens of bank customers have complained that money in their bank accounts virtually disappeared, although they still have their ATM card with them and they did not authorize any withdrawals.
So how did it happen?
There could be various possibilities:
- someone (a relative, a family member, or an office mate) who knows their PIN could have used their card to withdraw cash;
- a thief stole their ATM card and figured out the PIN;
- a bank employee unlawfully accessed the account and conducted illegal withdrawals; or
- they could have been a victim of ATM skimming.
What is ATM card skimming?
Skimming is a technique used to copy personal data from the magnetic strip of one’s ATM card.
Skimming is typically conducted by installing a device on the ATM machine that will read and capture your ATM’s data, together with a PIN capturing device that will record your PIN, so that your account can be fraudulently accessed in the future, even without the need for the card itself.
Check out this simple infographic summarizing how ATM card skimming is done.
Basically the illegal card reading device is attached to the ATM machine. The device reads your card while a small camera records you entering your PIN. The device is then detached, your personal details downloaded and your PIN decoded so that they can fraudulently access your account to make illegal withdrawals.
So how do you protect yourself so you won’t be a victim of card fraud?
How not to be a victim of illegal ATM withdrawals
The best form of protection is vigilance and awareness of surroundings. Instances of card skimming usually happens in ATM locations that are away from public view or in dimly-lit areas not frequented by people.
You also shouldn’t be complacent about your ATM card and PIN. Don’t just leave your ATM card lying around and better if you keep your PIN to yourself or, if necessary, only to a few trusted people.
Here are some more specific steps to help you not become a victim of ATM fraud and card skimming.
1. Do not write your PIN at the back of your ATM card or on a piece of paper which you keep in your wallet. Several people tend to forget their PIN number, that’s why they resort to a “cheat sheet” which they hide in their wallet. Some even write the PIN number at the back of the card itself. This could be handy in remembering the PIN but also makes it absolutely easy for thieves to figure out your supposedly secret PIN.
2. Use your ATM preferably during daytime and in high-traffic areas. Note that ATMs inside malls, outside banks, and in other high-traffic areas are rarely used for skimming because it will be difficult for them to install the skimming devices. Choose these locations when using your ATM instead of areas that are poorly lit, not frequented by people, or with shady and notorious reputation as haven for thieves and pickpockets.
3. Look out for sketchy or weird installations in the ATM. The card slot should be firmly attached to the actual ATM machine, not easily movable or detachable, and with no visible wires. Most banks have now installed flashing green LED lights in the ATM card slot to signify that it is a bank-installed card reader, so check if the lights are being covered by a seemingly detachable device. If you have doubts on the machine, defer using your card unless absolutely necessary.
4. Cover your hands when pressing buttons on the machine. This helps in preventing your PIN from being recorded by a video capture device.
5. Stop using your card when the next person in line seems to be too eager to stand behind you. Politely ask them to move backward or give way to them and tell them you will use the machine after them. Better to protect yourself from nosy people who could turn out to be thieves trying to see your PIN.
6. Change your PIN regularly. Even if card skimmers were able to get your ATM details, regularly changing your PIN can help reduce the risk of being a victim of card fraud.
7. Monitor your account regularly. Before leaving the ATM machine, make a balance inquiry and remember your remaining balance. In your succeeding transaction, make a balance inquiry first before proceeding to your actual transaction and compare if the account balance is the same as your previous balance.
8. Enroll your account online to easily monitor transactions. Those with many bank accounts may find it difficult to monitor account activity. In such a case, resort to online account access. Most banks now offer free online banking facility (that details activity and transactions in your account) so take advantage of this benefit offered by your bank.
9. Keep your transaction receipts. ATM receipts are handy documentation and proof in case you will have to report an incident. Compare your receipts with transactions in your online account and look for any discrepancy.
10. Contact your bank ASAP if you discover any unauthorized activity in your account. Should you find any discrepancy or unauthorized activity in your account, report it as soon as possible to your bank so they can investigate.
We hope these steps can help protect you from ATM fraud and card skimming. Keep safe!
Image Credit: OnlineInvestigations.com.au
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