How To Avoid Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) Scams

I would imagine that everyone reading this has probably used an ATM machine at some time. An Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) is an electronic terminal, which is directly links to the financial institution, to which it belongs, where consumers can conduct electronic financial transactions by means of an ATM or credit card. The majority of ATM machines are linked to a large number of financial institutions and can be used from anywhere around the world.

How To Avoid Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) Scams

ATM machines can be online or offline. In the case of online machines, the transactions conducted by consumers are processed instantaneously in real time. Where the ATM is offline, all transactions are recorded on tape. These tapes are subsequently transported on a daily basis to financial institutions for processing by either courier or security companies.


There are a number of ways in which ATM scams are conducted by fraudsters.

Here are some examples of ATM scams.

Stolen ATM or Credit Cards

In some instances fraudsters may come into possession of a persons’ ATM or credit card and have access to the secret pin required to conduct transactions on an ATM.

Often a persons’ wallet or purse can be stolen and the secret pin codes are written on a piece of paper inside.

Fraudsters will then utilize this information and withdraw as much funds as possible from the victim’s account at ATMs.

The fraudster will continue withdrawing funds until the card is held by the ATM machine.

Counterfeit ATM Cards

This offence is very rare, but they do occur.

In these instances offenders will make use of a ‘Skimming’ device.

This device is used to extract all data from a magnetic strip at the back of a bank or credit card.

This data can later be extracted to a computer.

With a skimming device it is only required to swipe the magnetic strip over or into the device.

From a computer, the information can then be transferred onto a new magnetic strip on the back of a new card.

This card will then in effect be a duplicate of the original card.

Skimming devices comes in many forms, large or small.

ATM fraudsters will use a device very similar to the ATM slot where the consumer’s card is entered to.

Fraudsters will simply remove the ATM’s device and put their own skimming device in its place.

Offenders will then set up cameras in hidden places around the ATM.

This camera is used to record the secret pin entered by the consumer.

Offenders will later remove their devices and can now start duplicating ATM and credit cards of victims.

Fraudulent withdrawals

As security measures, banking clients can not withdraw more funds from their accounts than are available.

There may also be daily withdrawal limits on accounts, which are set by the client or bank.

Fraudsters will often identify off-line ATM machines where transactions are not processed in real time.

Here they will be in a position to withdraw more than the current daily limit, also more than is available in the account.

Although these ATM’s have their own withdrawal limits, fraudsters will withdraw the maximum amounts they can as set by the ATM.

Fraudulent Deposits

In instances where a victim requires someone to deposit funds into their account before a product or service is delivered, fraudsters might prefer ATMs to perform this ‘deposit’.

Fraudsters generally would deposit a fraudulent check, but mark the ATM instruction as cash.

Fraudsters may also in instances place a small amount of funds into the envelope, but mark the front end with a higher amount and type the higher amount into the ATM as well.

When the victim releases the product or funds, they will at a later stage be informed of the fraudulent deposit made.


When approaching an ATM, one should always ensure that the ATM is in good order.

If there are any signs of tampering on the ATM, especially with the slot where the card is entered into, do not use it.

Always look for small cameras inside and around the ATM, which appear to be out of place.

When typing your pin, always ensure that you use your body to conceal the pad when typing your pin.

Make sure that there are no way in any angle in which a person or came could see the typing process.

Always ensure that you memorize your pin number.

Do not write it down and keep it along with your card, in the event of a theft or robbery, the card can not be used at any ATM.

When requesting someone to make a deposit into your account, always contact your bank and ask the method in which the deposit was made.

Also ask the exact amount and the method of payment.

It is highly suggested that you wait for funds to clear before releasing any products or services to a buyer.

About Lee Munson

Lee's non-technical background allows him to write about internet security in a clear way that is understandable to both IT professionals and people just like you who need simple answers to your security questions.


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