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Never Use A Random ATM

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Dateline NBC did an investigative report back in Dec. 2003 about ATM scams and you’ve probably seen these scam warnings before online… but just because they’ve garnered national attention doesn’t mean these methods aren’t still out there and people aren’t getting scammed. Reading Dateline’s article really opens your eyes to how easy it is for an unscrupulous person to get an ATM and start his own money making venture.


Aren’t companies supposed to check out their customers now? Apparently, not if you have $3,500 to buy a machine. And it wasn’t just the company that didn’t ask questions. The bank that enables the company to hook Randy up to the financial network also never contacted him.

Despite Randy’s [Glass, who is on probation for two felony convictions, including conspiracy to commit fraud] criminal past, within a few days, the deal was signed, sealed and delivered. And so, amid the flashing lights of a retail store that gave us permission to install the machine, Randy got a quick lesson and then was hooked up to the National Banking Network, ready for business.

It only gets worse…

Regardless, here are some of the tips Dateline gives:

— Use ATMs you’re familiar with so any changes will be more apparent
— ATMs with security cameras (including machines located inside businesses and in business-hours branches) are less likely to attract criminals
— Be suspicious if your card is “eaten” by the machine and someone approaches you to say the same thing happened to them, then advises you to enter your PIN again
— Limit your after-hours ATM use.
— Watch for “shoulder surfers” who watch you enter your PIN.
— Keep a watchful eye on your monthly statement, as well as your balance, and report any problems to your bank.

Most of those are somewhat obvious because those are tips to also prevent yourself from getting mugged after going to the ATM (something more people are aware of) but keep those in the back of your mind. I try to always withdraw money from tellers simply because I don’t like the fees and my major bank doesn’t have many ATMs anyway. But every so often you find yourself in a jam and ATMs are your quick solution – just be aware of your surroundings and the machine.

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3 Responses to “Never Use A Random ATM”

  1. Matt says:

    There’s an argument to be made for choosing a bank (at least for your most-liquid account) based on ATM prevalence. As for me, I honestly can’t remember the last time I had face-to-face contact with a bank employee for any purpose other than opening a new account.

    But I would only use a competing bank’s ATM in a true emergency…and I honestly think it would have to be a matter of life and death for me to use an ATM not affiliated with a well-known bank. (I prefer the ones physically attached to a bank branch, but will use any that I know to be legitimate…every Walgreen’s drugstore in Chicagoland, for example, has a BankOne ATM inside, and I know those aren’t fakes.)

  2. jim says:

    ATM frequency is a huge part of deciding what kind of bank to use… the bank I use is a credit union at work so I have daily access to tellers and ATMs without any sort of inconvenience. Bank of America has commercials about how many ATMs they have (they do have a lot) but even at a branded ATM, double check for those scandalous “additions.”

  3. X says:

    Going to the teller might not be the answer: I’ve read that some banks are starting to charge fees for teller transactions, in order to drive people to ATMs and lower their labor costs.


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