It’s not uncommon to see a commercial or an advertisement by a bank or credit union boasting that their debit or credit cards can be used at ATMs across the country. The convenience of allowing individuals to get cash anytime and anywhere is a major selling point for a financial institution. The greater the number of ATMs in their system the bigger their boasting rights about easy, quick access to funds. All is well and good until those ATMs put the user at risk of serious financial harm and potentially years of trying to fix their credit and regain their financial integrity.
The most recent breach involving ATMs at Walgreens stores and some bank facilities in Chicago has put users on edge and should raise concerns at the offices of financial institutions and ATM providers. Clearly the machines can be compromised and this latest incident seems to indicate it may not be that hard to do.
A device is apparently placed over or in the part of the machine where you insert your card. In addition some of the machines have had cameras placed on them to record the PIN number being entered by the user.
Based on the reporting of this recent incident it is not only easy to obtain these skimming devices but also quick and simple to place them on an ATM. It has been said that ATMs located at financial institutions were safer than those at retail stores or free standing locations. Allegedly the ones at financial institutions are inspected more frequently and any skimming devices are found sooner rather than later. However, three of the 13 found in Chicago were at banks. It is also believed by many that the other machines are inspected only when a malfunction is reported.
Rather than hearing that better machines, better security and more frequent inspections are needed, ATM users are being told that they themselves need to do more to insure the safety of their personal information. They are being told by the ATM providers and the financial institutions that the user should inspect the machine, check it for loose parts, look to see if a camera has been placed on it and if they have trouble using it, and go to another. They are also told to cover the PIN pad when entering their number and to change their PIN often.
Advertisements that show how quickly you can access cash by just sliding your card and entering a few numbers will need to change. A checklist will now have to be developed telling a user what they need to do before, during and after every transaction.
The list may have to include the following:
1. Approach the machine and visually inspect it, looking for parts that don’t seem to belong.
2. Run your hands across the machine feeling for loose parts or protruding items.
3. If something seems loose, wiggle it. If the part falls off, place it on the ground and leave as you have probably broken the machine.
4. If there appears to be a camera on the machine, cover it with your hand or pay it forward and duct tape it.
5. If you feel comfortable that the ATM is secure and has not been tampered with, use it at your own risk.
6. If after an inspection you are uncomfortable with any aspect of the machine, don’t use it. And thank you for your loyalty; we are here to serve you.
7. Whether you decide to use an ATM or not, please change your PIN each time you pass one.