ATM Safe Practices

Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) have steadily increased in popularity since their introduction in 1967. From cash withdrawals and deposits to transfers and airtime purchase, a good number of financial transactions can be completed at ATMS. They have the slight edge of being the only channel besides a bank branch that can give you access to cash; and even with the reduced emphasis on them, cash payments are still a necessity from time to time.

Besides the benefit of convenience, ATMs are also generally safe and secure to use. Still, as with most things financial, criminals look for ways to defraud unsuspecting victims. Here are a number of things you can do to ensure you don’t fall victim to such schemes:

  1. Card: A good rule of thumb is to treat your card like cash. Never lend it to anyone, and always put it back in your wallet after use; do not leave it lying around carelessly.

  2. PIN: Memorize your PIN and do not write it down at the back of your card. Refrain from using easy to guess numbers like your birth date or phone digits and never share it with anyone. In the event of a fraud, it’s difficult to track down the culprit(s) if you have shared your PIN with someone else. Basically, protect your PIN like you would protect the password to you online accounts. If there’s a queue behind you while using the ATM, use your body and/or your hand to shield the keypad as you punch in your pin.

  3. ATM: Especially at night, opt for ATMs in well-lit, visible areas. Avoid ATMs in secluded areas. If you notice something unusual or unfamiliar about a particular ATM, find another to use and inform the bank about the discrepancy. If you notice it after you have already begun your transaction, simply cancel the transaction and find another machine.

  4. Environment: When using the ATM, be alert to your surroundings. If using a drive-through ATM, make sure your car doors are locked and windows rolled up, except the window from where you’re transacting. If you have to step out of your car to use the ATM, make sure you lock your car doors properly after you alight, and keep your keys handy for when you return. Do not accept “help” from random people hanging around the ATM. If the machine retains your card, contact the bank through official channels immediately.

  5. You: Be efficient at the ATM. Know exactly what you want to do before it’s your turn. Have your card handy so you won’t have to stand around digging in your bag or pocket for it. And don’t forget to retrieve it along with your receipt and any other personal belongings, at the end of your transaction. There is no need to count your money at the ATM. If indeed there are any discrepancies when you count later, contact your bank. You cannot argue with the machine.

What to do if you suspect fraud

Keep an eye on your bank alerts/statements and report any suspicious transactions to your bank immediately once you notice them. The sooner you report, the greater the chances of stopping the fraud before it goes too far.

ATMs are here to stay because they are super convenient and easy to use. By adhering to these practices, you can reasonably ensure safety while going about your business.

Don’t forget to share this article with your beloved ones, whether it is your daughter or son, to remind them about the important tips to stay safe when using an ATM.

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Dania Nwizu is a creative entrepreneur based in Lagos, Nigeria. She spends most of her time writing, telling food stories and walking on water.

This article is intended to provide general information about finance and investments and does not replace or should be taken as professional financial advice. The content reflects the view of the author of the article and does not necessarily reflect the views of Citi or its employees, and we do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information presented in the article except information on Citibank N.A. – UAE products referenced herein.
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