At a glance
- Stay safe when using an ATM with our simple guide.
- Never use an ATM which appears to have been tampered with.
Withdrawing money from an ATM is a quick and convenient way to access your money, especially during a cash emergency.
While the number of financial tasks you can complete via ATMs has increased significantly over the past 10 years, fraudsters have also 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.
Tip #1: 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.
Tip #2: 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.
Tip #3: 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 straight away.
- Fraudsters essentially require access to your PIN to obtain cash from an ATM with your card, so always make sure you protect it.
Tip #4: 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.
Tip #5: 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.
Tip #6: 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.
Tip #7: 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.
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.