Security Tips At Banks And ATMs

Banks are designed to be safe places. They have to be: they hold the money, and they want to keep the money. But that’s not to say that fraudsters won’t find you while you’re withdrawing or depositing your cash. Your bank might be safe, but you can make yourself an easy target.

Don’t want to get your account phished or your money stolen? Read on for some tips about how to keep yourself, your personal information, and your money, safe while you’re banking.

At The Bank

Fill Out Deposit And Withdrawal Slips Beforehand

Nothing says “look over my shoulder and get my personal information” more than someone who’s laboriously filling out a slip by hand, with a bank pen, possibly with distractions like small children. Even if your teller fills out your account number, someone can still figure out where you live and how much money you’re taking out or putting in — and if that’s a substantial amount, it might be worth their while to smash in your door for your other expensive personal items. Don’t make yourself vulnerable. And once you have your slip in hand, make sure no one sees it but the teller.

Don’t Recite Your Account Number

They might need to hear it, sure. But you can write it down for them. If you recite it, everyone in the building can hear. This goes the same for the drive-thru. You know other people can hear you when you talk to the teller, right? Like, people outside your car and the bank. People, perhaps, in cars behind you (those things are LOUD). So if you can, write it down.

Don’t Flash Your Cash

This seems self-explanatory, but you’d be shocked at how many people plunk down at a table, take out their bank envelope, and start immediately transferring untold amounts of money into their purse or wallet. That’s a big no.

Beware Of Friendly Lurkers

Okay, that old lady chatting you up is probably not going to memorize your account number and steal a ton of money. But that’s profiling — and you never know. The bank is not the place to engage in friendly conversation, stand close to other people, or look over others’ shoulders. It’s a place of private business. Anything out of line with that should set off red flags — and set you moving in another direction. Remember: it’s always okay to do your business at another time, after a certain person leaves, or at another branch.

Generally, the ATM is the best place to withdrawal you cash. It’s convenient, either to your car or on foot; it’s private. But there are some precautions you need to take if you want to ensure your withdrawal is a safe one.

At The ATM

End Of The Line

Unlike many situations in life, you want to be at the end of the line at an ATM. That way no one’s looking over your shoulder, even inadvertently. If they are, they can see all kinds of information, from your entire bank balance to exactly how much you’re currently withdrawing. Not cool. Remember: you can always do your business at another time, or another ATM.

Shield The Keypad, Block The Screen

This is safety 101. You don’t want anyone to see your bank info, do you?

Be Ready To Go

Don’t lollygag with your ATM card hanging out and your cash waiting for you to pick it up. It’s an open invitation to thieves. Be alert, be ready, and be quick about getting what’s important.

Don’t Get A Receipt

All that does is tell a potential criminal how much cash you’re carrying on yourself. Get your receipts electronically, or just check your withdrawals from your online banking portal. If you absolutely must get a receipt, don’t glance at it, crumple it up, and toss it in a nearby garbage can, where thieves can be hovering. Put it in your pocket and keep it there.

Use Reputable ATMs In Well-Lit Areas

Of course, you want to use your bank’s ATMs first. Go with other big names next, especially if they fit the other criteria — it’s worth the fee. Be wary of sketchy ATMs in gas stations and other places branded with institutions you’ve never heard of. Sure, you may feel safe, and you may need the cash. But you have no idea how locked-down those ATMs are when it comes to cybersecurity. They’re a good way to get phished, something you’re not thinking of when it’s 4 a.m. and you’re on the road from somewhere to somewhere and need a few bucks in cash. (An added tip: Locate an Allpoint ATM, which is surcharge-free for most bank patrons, and can be found in a number of retail chains.)

Don’t Assume Safety At The Drive-Thru ATM

Lock all your doors and put up all your windows. Be aware of your surroundings: keep an eye out for anything or anyone suspicious. Take all the aforementioned ATM precautions.

Banking is inherently safe, as long as you treat it as a private enterprise, and balk at anything that intrudes upon that assumption. Keep other people at a distance, and protect your personal information.

And remember: you can always walk away. You can always do your banking at another time, at another branch, at another ATM. It may be a pain. But your safety is worth it.

Elizabeth Broadbent

Elizabeth Broadbent

Elizabeth Broadbent lives in a medium-sized city in the South with her three children, three dogs, and patient husband. She works as a staff writer for Scary Mommy, and her writing has been featured in The Washington Post and on

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