Be safe at the ATM

One of the reasons people get a debit or ATM card is to make withdrawals at an ATM. While your chance of being victimized when using one of these machines is small, you should always be alert. This is especially true when you're on vacation or traveling and in unfamiliar surroundings.

Follow these safety tips

When using your debit card at an ATM or other point-of-sale device, such as a store check-out, gas pump or unmanned parking kiosk, be sure to:

  1. Pick a safe ATM. Pick a machine located in a public, well-lit location free of shrubbery and partitions or dividers.
  2. Prepare your ATM transaction before you approach the machine. Have your ATM card out, any necessary forms completed, and know your PIN.
  3. Examine the machine closely for illegal devices. While the latest version of skimming devices are virtually undetectable, older card or cash-trapping devices need to be glued or taped to the card reader or cash dispenser. Look for sticky residue that might be adhesive used by criminals to attach a device. Also look for scratches, damaged or crooked pieces, and loose or extra attachments on the card slot. On the keypad, look for keys that are hard to push down.
  4. Check for the presence of extra cameras beyond the standard ATM security camera. Even with the latest version of skimmer, the thief still has to capture your PIN.
  5. Even if you can't find a camera, cover your hand as you are entering your PIN. This will block the view of illegally-placed cameras that may be positioned to capture your PIN, and prevent prying eyes from peeking over your shoulder. This is a good practice even at stores and gas stations.
  6. Be aware of your surroundings as you complete your transaction. If another person is uncomfortably close to you, ask that person to step back. Be wary of anyone offering to help you, and stay alert to cars parked close.
  7. If you’re using a drive-up ATM, keep your doors locked, windows rolled up and your engine running. Leave enough room between you and the car in front of you to exit the line if necessary.
  8. Even if your transaction is incomplete, take your receipt home and shred it.
  9. Don’t display your cash at the ATM. As soon as your transaction is complete, put your cash in your wallet or purse, and wait to count it when you are in a safe location.
  10. Try to use the same ATM for your normal transactions. Become familiar with it, and be able to identify changes to the machine. If you notice anything suspicious at the ATM, consider using another one. If you are in the middle of the transaction when you notice something suspicious, cancel that transaction, and take your card and leave.
  11. If you are followed after using the ATM, move to the nearest public area where there are more people.
  12. If you are approached by an assailant who demands your money, comply.

Special precautions for using the ATM at night

Be aware of your surroundings, particularly at night. Consider having someone go with you when using the ATM after dark. If the lights are out at the ATM, don’t use it.

If you are a victim of ATM crime

  1. Report a lost or stolen card immediately by calling Oregon State Credit Union at 800-732-0173.
  2. Report all crimes to law enforcement immediately.
  3. Contact one of the major credit bureaus to request a 90-day fraud alert for your credit files. The alert grants you a free credit report from each bureau and instructs potential creditors to contact you directly before opening any new lines of credit in your name.

Additional steps you can take

  1. Add text alerts to your account – If someone withdraws a pre-determined amount of cash from your account, the text alert will notify you quickly.
  2. Your financial institution will never ask for that information over the telephone.
  3. In the same vein, don’t respond to emails asking for your card number or PIN. A typical phishing scam will ask you to type your account number or PIN into an official looking Web site. Don’t fall for it.
  4. Monitor your online accounts frequently – at least monthly. If you notice a discrepancy, notify your financial institution immediately.
  5. Monitor your credit. You can get free credit reports once each year at
  6. Don’t use public wireless access points when making online financial transactions.
  7. Never share your PIN.
  8. If you must write down your PIN to remember it, put the number in a secure place, not with your card. If possible, it’s best to memorize the PIN and shred any documentation that has the PIN on it.

Back to fraud resource articles

Go to main navigation