Tips For Maximum ATM Safety

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Have you ever considered just how much Australians rely on ATMs? How much they’re used?

According to the Australian Payments Clearing Association (APCA), there are currently a little over thirty thousand ATMs operating throughout the country (30,883, as of September 2014). According to the Reserve Bank of Australia, we use those thirty thousand ATMs to withdraw an average of seven billion dollars every month – across approximately nine million transactions a week.

So, how much do we use them? A lot, basically.

Unfortunately, that means they can also be a common target for criminal behaviour. APCA’s Australian Payments Fraud Report found that Australians lost $3.1 billion to fraud in 2013. In fact, card fraud increased by 4% in 2013. There’s also a risk of identity theft – estimated by the office of the Australian Attorney-General to cost Australians $1.6 billion a year. Assault and robbery are also obvious concerns.

This is why it’s important to ensure that you’re using ATMs safely.

There are a number of measures and precautions you can take to minimise your risk of losing your money (or good health) when using an ATM. Some relate to simply being careful with your accounts and savings; others require you to be a bit more observant when specifically using an ATM. In general, you just have to keep your eyes open.


Using ATMs Safely - Your Account

You should make sure you’re always aware of what’s happening with your bank account and that access to your bank account is limited to you and your loved ones. To this end;

  • Regularly check your transaction history for unusual or unexplained transactions. In particular, check for transactions of one or two dollars – these small transactions are how criminals test if your account is active. Online/phone banking makes this easier. An app like Pocketbook will even notify you if there’s an unusual transaction on your account.
  • Regularly change your PIN. Don’t write any of your PIN numbers down or give them to others.
  • If you misplace your card, notify your bank immediately.
  • If you notice any abnomalies with your account, notify your bank immediately.


Using ATMS Safely - At the ATM

When it comes to actually using ATMs safely during a transaction, it’s really best to simply be conscious of your surroundings. For example:

  • Be efficient with transactions. Have you card ready when you go to an ATM and wait until you’re away from the ATM to safely count your money.
  • Ensure your hand is covered when you enter your PIN number. Be aware of any mirrors or security cameras that might make it possible for someone to see your PIN.
  • Be wary of anyone loitering around an ATM when you go to make a transaction. Be careful of anyone looking over your shoulder as you enter your PIN. If you feel unsure or unsafe at an ATM, try and find another.
  • If using an ATM at night, try and make sure it’s in a well-lit area and try to avoid going alone.
  • Be aware of any unusual devices or markings on an ATM that suggest it may have been tampered with in any way – an additional piece of plastic near the card slot, for example, or a loose keypad. If you spot any alterations, report them immediately to the bank or company who owns the ATM.


One of the biggest risks of using an ATM unsafely is falling prey to skimming criminals. Skimming involves stealing a person’s credit or debit card details. When it comes to ATMs, it’s typically accomplished by placing a hidden camera in an ATM (look for small pinholes) to record your PIN being entered and placing a device over the card slot that allows the criminals to copy a card’s magnetic strip.

(Skimmers have also been known to use fake keypads to record your PIN – so if a keypad or card slot seems loose, speak to your bank.)

The reason skimming is so dangerous is because it allows criminals access to your card’s information without their having to physically steal your card. In 2013, card-not-present fraud accounted for roughly 72% of Australian card fraud losses.

So, make sure you’re staying vigilant, keeping an eye on your accounts and using ATMs safely!