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ATMs are a regular part of most of our lives. In 2012, U.S. consumers made 5.8 billion ATM withdrawals, totaling a combined $687 billion, according to the Federal Reserve’s most recent Payments Study. With that in mind, the Massachusetts Division of Banks (DOB) offers advice that can make your next visit to the ATM a safe and secure experience.

Be alert
Always be aware of your surroundings when you are using an ATM. Make your transaction as brief as possible by having your card ready as you approach the machine. Before making your transaction, be on the lookout for individuals loitering nearby. Do not accept help from strangers while using the ATM.

Be wary of skimmers
Check the area around the slot where you insert your card. If you notice any unusual marks, scratches, tape, or loose equipment, these could be indicators that a fraudulent card-reading device has been attached. If you notice anything suspicious, or if you do not feel confident that the machine is secure, don’t use it.

Check your receipts
Review your receipts before leaving the ATM. Compare your receipts to your past transaction history and immediately report unusual or suspicious charges to your financial institution. Shred your receipts before discarding them.

Don’t hesitate to report a problem
If you observe anything suspicious at an ATM, report it to the police and your financial institution. If the machine does not return your card, report it immediately to your financial institution.

Destroy old cards
Do not keep old cards. Even they are expired, thieves could use the information on the cards to fraudulently order new ones from your financial institution. Cut through the account number and the magnetic strip of old cards before discarding them.

Keep your PIN number safe
Memorize your PIN number, and do not write it down on your card or on a piece of paper in your wallet or purse. Never share your PIN number with another person. These digits are essential for accessing your card’s financial accounts, so it’s important to keep it confidential. When you enter your PIN number at an ATM, block the keypad with your other hand to avoid allowing bystanders or cameras to see the digits.

Understand your card options

New payment cards are now being issued with chip technology, rather than magnetic strips. Chips allow for information to be physically embedded into a card, and contain a security component called an integrated circuit card verification value (ICVV). The ICVV is unique to cards with chip technology, and this data security measure makes it much more difficult for thieves to fraudulently copy card information. Although using a card with a chip does make ATM transactions more secure than using a card with a magnetic strip, it is important to keep in mind that your information is never 100 percent safe.

If you have additional questions, call the Division of Banks at (617) 956-1500 ext. 501, or call us on our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757 Monday through Friday from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter@Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation is committed to protecting consumers through consumer advocacy and education.

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