[HOW TO] Stay safe at an ATM with these five tips

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While more and more South Africans switch to digital channels for their banking needs many more still make use of an ATM to transact.

The reasons for this, according to head of digital and channels at Barclays Africa, Marius de la Rey, are varied. For example, some merchants still require cash payments, some people just do not have access to internet making digital channels unreachable, and many people need to use an ATM to make deposits or payments.

There are however risks associated with transacting this way and although the South African Banking Risk Information Centre has issued a report in which it details the fact that cash related robberies had declined by as much as 23%, another report reveals a different story.

The 2014 Ombudsman for Banking Services annual report revealed that ATM fraud accounted for 44% of all consumer complaints. This means that conducting transactions at an ATM is a bit of a risky affair.

To counteract this, most banks have safety measures such as PIN shields that add a layer of protection from prying eyes. Jitter software is present in ABSA ATMs and this vibrates your card to prevent card skimming scams, but safety at an ATM starts with you.

For that reason we’re going to give you five handy tips that will make your trip to the ATM a bit safer.

Never leave the ATM when your card is still inside it.

While this would make sense when you’re withdrawing money it becomes all the more important if your card is swallowed by the ATM. Most ATMs will have a contact number on them so rather than leaving the machine, wait in front of it and call the bank.

Cancel your card, effectively destroying it, before leaving the ATM. Image by Raymond Gilford.
Cancel your card, effectively destroying it, before leaving the ATM. Image by Raymond Gilford.

Only once you have verified that the card has been cancelled should you leave. If you can’t find the bank’s number on the ATM check any notifications the bank has sent you, they usually include a contact number in those text messages and emails. Alternatively, Google is your friend.

Before you use the ATM, check it out

With a skimmer a thief may as well be standing next to you watching you enter your pin. Image by clement127
With a skimmer a thief may as well be standing next to you watching you enter your pin. Image by clement127

Although anti-skimming mechanisms have been included in may ATMs that doesn’t stop people from trying. Take a look at the ATM and if you see anything untoward attached to it, walk away and report it to the bank which owns the ATM. When using an ATM your card should feed into the machine smoothly, if this is not the case or you are finding it difficult to insert your card, stop trying to insert it, report it to the bank and use a different ATM.

Do not accept help while using an ATM

Don’t accept help from strangers when you’re at an ATM. As de la Rey explains it even the most well dressed and unassuming-looking person could be trying to scam you.

Image by CC torbakhopper
Don’t ask for, or accept help at the ATM. Image by CC torbakhopper

“They will use slight-of-hand techniques to obtain your card and may try to convince you that your card is in the ATM and abuse your trust to allow them or an accomplice to watch you entering your pin,” he says. If you need help remove your card, go into the bank branch and make an enquiry there.

Your PIN is personal, keep it that way

You never know who is watching. Image by CC gerlos
You never know who is watching. Image by CC gerlos

The only person who should know your PIN number is you. Don’t tell friends, family, a person claiming to be calling you from the bank or even your parents your PIN. Similarly don’t write your PIN on a piece of paper you keep in your wallet or purse and never store your PIN on your phone.

There is a very high chance that you will lose your wallet and cell phone which, if you have your PIN in can spell disaster. Remember that without your PIN it’s very tricky for unsavoury folk to gain access to your bank account.

Use a notification service offered by your bank

All of the major South African banks offer a transaction notification service. These notifications alert you to activity on your account depending on how you, or your bank set them up. These services help to let you know when there’s an activity on your account allowing you to react to any withdrawals or purchases made with your account. Speak to your bank about setting this service up on your account if it isn’t already.

“While we are encouraging our customers to use digital channels like cellphone and internet banking as a safer and more convenient form of banking, we realise that many people still have the need to transact with cash and as such, ATM safety remains a key priority for us” – Marius de la Rey, Head of Digital and Channels: Barclays Africa

We would also recommend speaking to your bank about any additional safety precautions that you can put in place to make transacting, through an ATM or any other channel, safer.

[Image by CC 2.0 Garry Knight]

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.