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Oscar Dominguez: Tips for ATM safety

Union Bank

Posted: May 15, 2009 4:16 p.m.
Updated: May 16, 2009 4:55 a.m.
For many Santa Clarita Valley residents, visiting an automated teller machine is part of a routine, much like grocery shopping and filling up at the gas pump. With new and sophisticated scams to pilfer personal financial information, it is wise to be increasingly vigilant in your efforts to protect yourself and your financial information when visiting an ATM.  

Before your next ATM stop, it may be a good idea to consider these safety tips:

n Be alert. When visiting an ATM, scan the area for anything that looks suspicious, especially someone who may be standing too close. Do not allow strangers to help you with your transaction and do not hesitate to cancel your transaction immediately if you begin to feel uneasy.   

n Location, location, location. Consider using an ATM in a well-lit location and preferably inside a bank branch or lobby, or closer to the center of a building rather than the corner or back of a building where there are blind spots.

n Plan ahead. Consider keeping a supply of deposit envelopes on hand so you can prepare your paperwork ahead of time. Have both your deposit paperwork and bankcard in hand when you arrive in front of the ATM.

n Tuck it away. As soon as your money comes out of the ATM, put it away and count it at a later time.

n Know the scams. One of the more common scams used at ATMs is “skimming.” Criminals using this method mount a wireless skimmer device to the front of a legitimate ATM and strategically place a hidden wireless camera where it can capture PINs inserted into the keypad. When a card is swiped, the skimmer reads the card number and transmits it to the criminals. The camera captures the corresponding PIN number as it is inserted.

To help combat this crime, consider shielding your PIN with your hand as you enter it. If your card becomes stuck in an ATM machine, alert your financial institution right away. If you notice any changes to equipment on an ATM, or anything unusual, contact your banking institution and alert the manager of the institution where the ATM is located.

n Lock up at drive-up ATMs. When visiting a drive-up ATM, consider keeping your engine running, your car doors locked and your windows up until you are ready to make your transaction. It is also a good idea to keep valuables out of sight.

n Keep your PIN private. Your PIN number is for your use only and should never be shared with anyone. If you receive a telephone call from someone who says they are working for your banking institution, absolutely do not provide your PIN.

Do immediately notify your bank and the authorities. It is also a good idea to review your bank statements regularly to scan for any suspicious charges.

n For more information about ATM safety, please feel free to visit one of Union Bank’s four branch offices in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Oscar Dominguez is vice president and branch manager of the Stevenson Ranch branch of Union Bank, located at 25954 The Old Road and the Valencia Bank & Trust branch, located at 23620 Lyons Avenue.  Visit for more information.


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