Identity theft is a problem that's not going away. About one in 15 people will be victims of identity theft this year, and one of the most common ways thieves try to steal identities is by swiping your information while you're using an ATM. In order to reduce the chances of your identity getting stolen, you need to know how to protect your ATM and debit card information.
How Identity Thieves Steal Your ATM Information
While ATMs are designed to protect your privacy, identity thieves have developed some tricks they can use to steal your personal information. One of the most common methods is called skimming.
Skimming is when people steal your Personal Identification Number (PIN) and account number using devices known as skimmers. Skimming has been occurring for nearly 10 years and has resulted in people losing a lot of money.
Two devices can be used to capture your data. One device is placed near where you swipe your card. It automatically reads the magnetic stripe on your card which has your account number on it.
The other device, a camera hidden from view, is used to capture your PIN number. Once the thieves have this data, they can copy your account number to a blank card and use it to access your money.
How to Protect Yourself From ATM Fraud
It's worth pointing out that financial institutions are aware of these methods and are working to combat them. This is why more and more financial institutions are moving to EMV chip cards. When you have an EMV chip in your ATM or Debit Card, thieves have a much harder time trying to skim the information off your card than a mag stripe card.
You can't rely solely on your financial institution to protect your information at the ATM, though. You'll need to take some proactive steps each time you step up to an ATM.
Cover Your PIN Code When Using an ATM
Always use your hand to cover the keypad when you are using an ATM machine. Hidden cameras can be placed anywhere to steal your PIN number. Never use an ATM machine if there is someone else standing near you and never write your PIN down. Never give your PIN number to anyone.
Use Familiar ATMs
If you use the same ATM frequently, you're more likely to notice if something is wrong with the ATM. For example, you might notice your card doesn't swipe as easily or there are errors with the transaction. You might even realize the machine looks off somehow if an identity thief puts a skimmer on top of the card slot.
Check Account Balances Frequently
Get into the habit of checking your account balance at least once a week to make sure you are safe. In case your account is skimmed, make sure to inform your financial provider as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the less chance there is that you will get reimbursed.
Look for Hidden Cameras
While there is a visible camera inside the ATM, thieves might have hidden another camera that will let them see you enter your PIN number. Look for any hole or slot that might look out of place. If in doubt, avoid using that ATM and go to another one.
Don't Keep a lot of Cash in Your Account
Another trick to avoid losing large sums of money is to keep as little cash in your checking account as possible. In case your data gets stolen, the thief will only get access to a small amount of money, which can be reimbursed if you notify your financial institution in a timely manner.
Keep an eye on the ATM's Behavior
Pay attention to anything that seems unusual about the ATM. If it is unusually slow or freezes, or asks for your PIN number twice, it has most likely been tampered with. Try using a different ATM just to be on the safe side.
Sign Up for Account Alerts
If your financial institution offers alerts, sign up for them. These alerts inform you whenever there is irregular activity on your credit or debit card every time it is used.
Want to more about protecting yourself from ATM fraud? Check out this video from KIMT News 3, featuring our Organization Development and Trainer, Robin Fries.
Keep Your Information Secure With First Alliance Credit Union's Services
ATM fraud is a problem that isn't going away any time soon. However, you don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to beat an identity thief's tactics. All you have to do is exercise some caution and be alert whenever you use an ATM.
If you become a First Alliance Credit Union member today, you'll also have the opportunity to get comprehensive identity theft protection coverage at a discounted rate from our partner, LegalShield. They'll monitor the Internet to make sure your identity is safe, and alert you if they detect any discrepancies.
Want more information? Check out episode 83 of our Good Money Moves podcast, which talks about how to identify and avoid phone scams