7 ways to stay safe when using ATMs - Credit cards - Guides - Moneyfacts


7 ways to stay safe when using ATMs

7 ways to stay safe when using ATMs

Category: Credit cards

Updated: 31/08/2016
First Published: 30/08/2016

Withdrawing money from an ATM is a quick and convenient way to access your money, especially during a cash emergency.

While the usage of ATMs has increased significantly over the past 10 years, fraudsters have become more sophisticated in their methods of trying to steal funds from bank accounts.

The threat of unscrupulous behaviour from a small number of individuals shouldn't put you off from using cash machines, but it's always wise to adopt a safety-conscious approach when making any kind of cash withdrawal.

Check the cash machine before using it

You may not have time to thoroughly check an ATM before inserting your card, but there are a few quick and simple things you can do

  • Only use ATMs situated in well-lit and busy areas, particularly after nightfall. Preferably, use an ATM located indoors, in a bank or building society branch, or one that is monitored by CCTV. Try to steer clear of machines that have been vandalised or mistreated.
  • Check over the cash machine. Many ATM fraudsters use tactics such as placing false fronts over the card slot to copy, or skim, your details. They may also have positioned a small camera inside the hole in the wall or above the keypad to capture you entering your PIN. If anything looks "stuck on", it probably is.
  • If you have suspicions that a machine may have been tampered with, avoid using the machine and report your concerns to the machine's owner immediately. Doing so will reduce the likelihood of other people falling foul of potential fraudsters.

Take a friend with you

ATM fraudsters aren't restricted to technology-based scams. There is also the possibility of being tricked into revealing your PIN to a stranger, or being mugged.

  • If you feel uneasy about taking cash from a machine in a certain area, take a friend with you to put off any would-be assailants.
  • If you spot anyone loitering around an ATM looking suspicious, report them immediately to the police.

Protect your PIN

  • Always place your hand over the keypad to act as a shield while inputting your PIN.
  • Avoid inputting your PIN if there are people too close to you and never reveal your PIN to anyone, not even bank staff.
  • Four numbers are easy to remember. Never write down your PIN as a note in your wallet or handbag. Doing so will provide thieves with your cards and PIN in one fell swoop, meaning they can access your account straightaway.
  • Fraudsters essentially require access to your PIN to obtain cash from an ATM with your card, so always make sure you protect it.

Never accept help from strangers

It doesn't matter how inoffensive, friendly or gallant someone may appear, never accept help from strangers.

  • If your card gets stuck in a machine, do not leave it there. Report it immediately using your mobile phone.
  • If you brought a friend along with you to withdraw cash, one of you can remain at the ATM while the other goes to report it.
  • Strangers may offer to help, but they can't. Again, never reveal your PIN to anyone, not even if they claim to work for your bank, the owner of the machine, the local authorities or the police.

Don't withdraw cash after drinking alcohol

  • Try to withdraw all the cash you need at the beginning of an evening out, rather than mid-way through a mammoth pub crawl.
  • Alcohol impairs your judgement and can make you less likely to spot a dodgy cash machine or notice suspicious activities.
  • Alcohol consumption can also make you more trusting of 'helpful' strangers should you experience any problems at an ATM, such as your card getting stuck.
  • If you're a bit tipsy, there is also the risk that you won't remember to withdraw your card after using it, or that you will leave some cash in the machine.

Check ATM receipts against your bank statements

Sometimes even the most cautious people can get caught out by fraudsters.

  • Your bank or building society should compensate any losses, but the onus will be on you to report it.
  • Check all cash withdrawals against your bank statement and keep receipts from the ATM to check back against your statement.
  • Always select 'yes' if a cash machine asks if you require a receipt. Doing so will mean you have evidence of the transaction in the event of making a claim to your bank or building society.

Do you need to use an ATM?

  • A lot of shops and bars now allow you to withdraw cash without the need for you to go to an ATM on the street. It's always worth asking if this service is available and whether you will incur any charges for doing so.
  • Some retailers also allow you to obtain cashback when paying with your card, although some may require you to make a minimum purchase first.

What next?

More banking guides
Compare the best bank accounts

Disclaimer: This information is intended solely to provide guidance and is not financial advice. Moneyfacts will not be liable for any loss arising from your use or reliance on this information. If you are in any doubt, Moneyfacts recommends you obtain independent financial advice.

Related Articles

The advantages and disadvantages of Prepaid Cards

The problem with using credit cards is that convenience and speed can carry you away, often leading to overspending, or getting into dangerous debt. Another choice is already here; it's called the Prepaid Card.

Should you take out a store card?

Store cards are a type of credit card with certain unique characteristics... a store card will only allow you to spend in the shops of a particular retailer or retail group. But the differences don't end there...

Guide to 0% balance transfer credit cards

Getting a long 0% balance transfer credit card can reduce your debt quickly and cheaply. But there are a few things to be aware of before transferring.
Save on Mortgages
Call our experts now to see how much you could save.
0800 193 6644 Lines open 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday
Phone lines are manned by Premier Financial Group Ltd who are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.