How to Protect Yourself at the ATM

What would life be without the 2.2 million automated teller machines (ATMs) that give millions of Americans ready access to their bank accounts every day? ATMs are convenient for anyone who needs fast access to cash — including, unfortunately, identity thieves.

While you may worry about identity thieves targeting you while you shop online or that your personal information may be caught up in a data breach at the hospital where you had surgery last year, the truth is the majority of identity theft occurs in ways that are much lower-tech. It’s much more likely that a criminal might target your ATM use than pilfer your information online.

Fortunately, you have a lot of control over how secure you are at the ATM. Here are some tips on how to protect yourself from identity theft when you use an ATM:

• Choose your ATM wisely. Look for machines located in secure areas, such as in the lobby of a bank that can only be accessed with a bank card, or one in a high-traffic public location. It will be harder for identity thieves to ply their tricks on a securely located ATM.

• Be aware of who is around you when you use a walk-up ATM. Shoulder surfing — peering over someone’s shoulder while they type a PIN — is a leading way crooks swipe PIN and account numbers. If someone is standing too close and making you uncomfortable, don’t use the ATM. Walk away and find another one.

• Examine an ATM for signs of tampering before you use it. Identity thieves have been known to attach devices to the machines that steal information when you insert your card. Loose, damaged or odd-looking parts such as the card slot or the keypad may indicate the ATM has been corrupted.

• Keep an eye on your bank account and your credit report. Often, those are the first places where evidence of identity theft or fraud will show up.

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