Automatic Teller Machines were invented to try to make life easier. But like all technology, they can be used by scammers to steal your personal information and your money.
It is a good idea to use only ATMs inside banks and other buildings; these are least likely to have been tampered with. If you must use an outside ATM not visible to bank personnel, use the same one consistantly. That way you’re more likely to notice if something is different.
When Using an Outside ATM:
Before you begin, press the “enter,” “cancel” and “clear” buttons to be sure they’re in working order. If you get halfway through and they don’t work (or have been glued down by would-be thieves, which happened in San Francisco some years ago) use the ATM’s touch screen to finish or cancel your transaction.
Never leave your card in the machine unattended, even if it is confiscated. Call the bank on your cellphone, or ask someone else to go inside and fetch help.
According to Scambusters, con artists sometimes pose as Good Samaritans helping you with a recalcitrant machine when what they’re really doing is memorizing your PIN. Don’t let anyone close enough to “shoulder surf” your transaction, the website warns. And:
• Check the ATM for external blocking devices such as film glued to trap ATM cards, card skimmers mounted beside the normal card slot with a sign saying “slide card here first,” or card skimmers labeled “card cleaner.”
• Know that sometimes scammers create an entire fake ATM in shopping centers and other public places. Instead of cash, they give you a screen saying the machine is out of money or out of order.
For more tips on how to safely use ATMs, please visit www.scambusters.org.
Previously published in the Spokane Spokesman-Review