Automated teller machines (ATMs) and point-of-sale (POS) machines are very commonplace. Rare today is the person who still chooses to conduct their business inside a bank branch or go inside to pay for their fuel at the gas station, as ATMs and POS machines offer speed, convenience, and 24-hour availability.
However, with ATMs and POS machines come more opportunities for criminals. Robberies and identity thefts from these machines have risen over recent years, as more and more people opt for the convenience of electronic business transactions and conduct their banking business out in the open.
Download our tip sheet ATM & POS Security [PDF, 183Kb] for some simple steps you can take to help keep you safe and prevent you from becoming another victim, and share this information with everyone you know who uses a credit or debit card.
• Never loan your ATM or credit card to anyone.
• Never tell anyone your personal identification number (PIN). Never write down your PIN where it can be discovered. Don't keep a copy of your PIN in your purse or wallet, and NEVER write your PIN on your card.
• Protect your PIN when entering it by using your hand or body to shield the number pad from anyone else's view.
• Save your receipts; don't leave them at the ATM. Shred them later after you get home - don't thrown them out intact, even at home. If you don't want a receipt, many ATMs now offer an option not to get one.
• When using a drive-up ATM, keep your door locked and all the windows (except the driver's window) rolled up. Don't open your door to use the ATM.
• Never accept help with an ATM from anyone you don't know, even if the machine seems to have "eaten" your card. Report any machine problems to the ATM owner.
• Don't leave your card anywhere, especially at or in the ATM.
• Put your cash away as soon as you get it, and wait until you are in secure surroundings to count it. Never count your cash while at the ATM or POS machine (or while walking away), out in the open.
• Minimize your time at the ATM by preparing at home or in your office. Fill out deposit slips ahead of time and keep spare envelopes handy so you'll be ready to go when you get to the ATM.
• If using an ATM or POS machine after dark, try to use one that's in a well-lit area and is clearly visible from the street or to other patrons.
• Be mindful of your surroundings. Look around before and as you approach, while you're at the ATM, and as you walk away, for suspicious people or activity. If you see anything before using the ATM, walk away and use a machine at a different location. Consider bringing someone with you when using an ATM, especially after dark - there is safety in numbers.
• If you've already begun using the ATM when you notice something suspicious, cancel your transaction, take your card, and walk away. Use a machine at a different location.
Keep on top of it
• Keep track of all your transactions by writing them down in your account ledger, but not while you're at the ATM or POS machine.
• Report any problems you seem such as burnt out light bulbs (which employees would not notice during daylight hours), graffiti/vandalism, loose keypads or card readers, anything sticking out of a card reader, etc. to the ATM or POS machine owner. If a keypad or card reader is loose, or if anything is sticking out of the card reader, don't use it - find another machine.
• Report any suspicious activity you see to the ATM or POS owner and the Sheriff's Department.
• Never accept any assistance from anyone you don't know while using an ATM or POS machine.
• If your ATM or credit card is ever lost or stolen, immediately notify the bank or card issuer and report the loss or theft to the Sheriff's Department. Keep a list of your ATM and credit card numbers along with the phone numbers to call, handy for this purpose. The same thing goes if your account is ever compromised, even if you still have your card. Report it to the bank, destroy the card, and file a police report.
• If you are ever held up after you get your cash, throw your cash on the ground and run away quickly while screaming for help.
• If you're ever held up at a drive-up ATM, and someone is blocking your path, put your vehicle in reverse to get away. Make sure to report any incidents to the Sheriff's Department.