BLOG: Another kind of ATM safety - fraud protection

BLOG: Another kind of ATM safety - fraud protection

Today there is a criminal on the loose in the Charlotte area that has compromised the use of several bank ATM cards.  That, my friends, is a statement of fact. And not so much that there truly is an individual being hunted by police at this very moment doing exactly that, but more because this happens all the time.

Like many of our day-to-day tasks in life, using an ATM has gone from being a novelty back in 1969, when the first ATM was introduced by Chemical Bank in New York, to being a near-daily errand.  It ends up being human nature that when an activity becomes somewhat routine, we no longer pay attention to the various hazards that surround it. Enter the ATM machine and card. So what can we do to prevent compromising our personal security and safety?

For answers to this, I turned to Certified Fraud Examiner Steve Vaughan of Charlotte.  He assured me that from the information he receives, the general public is only aware of a small portion of the crime that surrounds ATM machines and cards.

"Financial institutions are very careful to protect information on the theft of credit card and debit cards, especially when it is happening at their own ATMs.  They are often more worried about protecting their image than preventing or solving these crimes.  They do not do much to help the victims to determine the full extent of their exposure to additional theft, nor teach them how to prevent future occurrences."  

- Steve Vaughan, certified fraud examiner

Vaughan continues, "I have seen a local case where a debit card was used in repeated attempts to withdraw large amounts of cash out of state.  The bank caught the abnormal activity and informed the victim, but they also repeatedly re-interviewed the victim about where he had used the card, and who else he had let use it, at times trying to blame the victim for the thefts.  In this case, he had only used the card 4 times since it had been issued, all at ATMs located at or inside branches of the bank that issued it, as the bank's own records confirmed.  The bank would never acknowledge that the information was stolen from one of their own ATMs.

Vaughan said the bank did eventually refund the funds to the victim after he had suffered through weeks of financial chaos resulting from an overdrawn account, additional bounced checks, and penalties charged by the bank, all of which the victim had to fight to get removed.

As with any measure of personal protection, we as individuals are ultimately responsible for our own safety and security.

Consider your own physical protection when utilizing an ATM machine and be aware of your surroundings, something I covered in a blog a few months ago.

Let's look at the information security side of things

  • Do not leave your card in public view.  Many of us have a habit, when we are digging through our pockets or purse, to lay the contents out on an open table or counter top while in public.  This is the perfect invitation for someone who is determined to copy your card numbers and other personal information.
  • Don't copy your PIN number on a piece of paper. Memorize those numbers!  I actually saw a person the other day get out their ATM card and read their PIN number on a sticky notes that they had placed on the back of their card.  An invitation for disaster in my opinion.
  • Immediately report a lost or stolen card.  Waiting 24 hours has proven to many to create a multitude of problems from stolen money to identity theft for many victims.
  • Write in the signature line of a card as soon as you receive it.  It doesn't necessarily have to be your signature.  On all my cards, I have written "SEE ID", which gives directions to merchants to please ask for my ID any time I use the card. Just make sure and put something in there so someone doesn't find your card and write a fake signature in their handwriting.

When it comes to protecting our accounts and identity, small things very often go a long way.  Just another example of how we "Don't let the bad guys win!"