10 Tips to Protect Yourself from Illegal ATM Withdrawals

Several bank customers have reported experiencing cases of ATM fraud and illegal cash withdrawals from their account.

Their main complaint: money in their bank account disappeared, although they did not authorize any withdrawals and they still have their ATM card with them. How did that happen?

There could be various possibilities:

  • someone (perhaps a relative, a family member, or an office mate) who knows their PIN could have used their card to withdraw cash;
  • a thief stole their ATM card and figured out the PIN;
  • a bank employee unlawfully accessed the account and conducted illegal withdrawals; or
  • they could have simply been a victim of ATM skimming.

What is ATM card skimming?

Skimming is a technique used to copy your personal data from the magnetic strip of your ATM card.

Skimming is typically conducted by installing a device on the ATM machine that will read and capture your ATM’s data. Installed with it is a PIN capturing device that will record your PIN, so that your account can be fraudulently accessed even without the need for the card itself.

Here’s a simple infographic summarizing how ATM card skimming is done.

Basically how it works is that the illegal card reading device is attached to the ATM machine (Step 1 above).

The device reads your card while a small camera records you entering your PIN (Step 2).

The device is then detached, your personal details are downloaded, and your PIN decoded so that they can access your account to make future illegal withdrawals even without the need for your ATM (Step 3).

So how do you make sure you’re protected from card fraud and ATM skimming?

Here are ten tips.

10 Tips to protect yourself vs. Skimming and ATM Card Cloning

1. Do not write your PIN at the back of your ATM card or on a piece of paper which you keep in your wallet.

Several people tend to forget their PIN number, that’s why they resort to a “cheat sheet” which they hide in their wallet. Some even write the PIN number at the back of the card itself. This could be handy in remembering the PIN but, unfortunately, also makes it absolutely easy for thieves to figure out your supposedly secret PIN.

2. Use your ATM preferably during daytime and in high-traffic areas.

Note that ATMs inside malls, outside banks, and in other high-traffic areas are rarely used for skimming because it will be difficult for them to install skimming devices. When withdrawing cash, choose these locations instead of areas that are poorly lit, not frequented by people, or with shady reputation as haven for thieves and pickpockets.

3. Look out for sketchy or weird installations in the ATM.

The ATM’s card slot should be firmly attached to the actual machine. Try to share it to see if it’s easily movable or detachable. There should be no visible wires in the machine.

Most banks have also now installed flashing green LED lights in the ATM card slot to signify that it is a bank-installed card reader, so check if the lights are being covered by a seemingly detachable device. If you have doubts on the machine, defer using your card.

4. Cover your hands when pressing buttons on the machine.

This helps in preventing your PIN from being recorded by a video capture device installed in the ATM.

5. Stop using your card when the next person in line seems to be too eager to stand behind you.

Politely ask them to move backward or give way to them and tell them you will use the machine after them. Better to protect yourself from nosy people who could turn out to be thieves trying to see your PIN.

6. Change your PIN regularly. 

Regularly changing your PIN can help reduce the risk of being a victim of card fraud. Do not use a PIN that can be easily guessed such as your birthday, etc.

7. Monitor your account regularly.

Before leaving the ATM machine, make a balance inquiry, keep the transaction receipt, and remember your remaining balance. In your succeeding transaction, make a balance inquiry first before proceeding to your actual transaction. Compare the current balance with the balance in your previous transaction receipt and check if they’re the same.

8. Enroll your account online to easily monitor transactions.

Those with many bank accounts may find it difficult to monitor activity per account. We thus suggest that you opt for online account access. Most banks currently offer free online banking facility that shows detailed activity and transactions in your account, so take advantage of this benefit offered by your bank.

9. Keep your transaction receipts.

ATM receipts are handy documentation and proof in case you will have to report an incident. Don’t throw them away, keep them, and compare your receipts with transactions in your online account and look for any discrepancy.

10. Contact your bank ASAP if you discover any unauthorized activity in your account.

Should you find any discrepancy or unauthorized activity in your account, report it as soon as possible to your bank so they can investigate.

We hope these steps can help protect you from ATM fraud and card skimming. Keep safe!

Image Credit: OnlineInvestigations.com.au

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2 thoughts on “10 Tips to Protect Yourself from Illegal ATM Withdrawals”

  1. Agree! Best to subscribe to bank alerts too. I know Security Bank sends alerts when you withdraw. I’m not sure if other banks do that too.


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