Protect Yourself from ATM Fraud

It was September of 1969: the summer of man’s first moonwalk, the summer of Woodstock, and the summer of America’s first automated teller machine, or ATM, which debuted in New York City.  Today, more than two million ATMs are featured worldwide, from tropical Thailand to icy Antarctica, and even on cruise ships in the middle of the sea.  With money so easily accessible, it’s hard to imagine a time when we had to go inside a bank to withdraw the weekend’s spending money, and with our Friday paycheck, because the banks were closed Saturday and Sunday.

In this way, ATMs quickly revolutionized the banking industry—and just as quickly became targets for criminals.

Just as automated banking evolved, financial crime evolved with it.  From humble beginnings of card theft and shoulder-surfing for personal identification numbers, by the early ’90s, thieves were using fake ATMs to steal customer information.  Thieves have even been known to buy legitimate, working ATMs for the sole purpose of stealing customer information.  But ATM fraud doesn’t have to involve the entire machine.  Thieves have been known to attach hidden cameras, false card readers, or entire false fronts to standard machines in an attempt to steal customer account numbers and PINs.  Information collected through “skimming” off these legitimate transactions is then wirelessly transmitted to the thieves, waiting in the wings.  The thieves can then use this information to create a legitimate-looking debit card.  This then creates an unpleasant surprise for you come your weekend withdrawal, only to find your account empty!

Armed with the right information, you can save your weekends and minimize your risk of falling victim to ATM fraud.

●       Don’t use an ATM if a suspicious person is lingering nearby.

●       If an ATM looks strange or tampered with in any way, don’t use it.  Lower your risk by using the same ATM as often as possible, so you can recognize any changes to the device.

●       When entering your PIN at an ATM or point-of-sale device, shield your hand from view.

●       Never write your PIN on your debit card or on a card in your wallet or purse—memorize it.

●       Don’t use a PIN easily guessable by thieves, such as your birthdate, phone number, house number, or 1-2-3-4.

●       Don’t leave ATM receipts in the machine.  Take them and use them to reconcile your monthly statement.  At the end of the month, shred and carefully dispose of receipts.

●       Cut up and carefully dispose of old debit cards once you receive a replacement.

●       Never give out your account number or PIN over the phone or through an e-mail.  Requests for such information may be phishing scams designed to part you from your personal information and your money.

Despite your best efforts to protect your financial data, you may become a victim of an ATM scam or identity fraud. If your debit card information has been misused, Hornberger & Brewer can help you get back on your feet.  Our talented identity theft attorneys will fight for your financial rights and the integrity of your good name.  Visit our website for more information or to contact us for a consultation.

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