The Dangers of Using an ATM Abroad

Atm machine safety

We are constantly reminded by our major finance institutions to be careful when
using ATM’s in the UK. Whilst security precautions are stringent here, this is not
always the case when you travel to far flung destinations. Generally speaking,
Europe is equally as vigilant with as many anti-theft devices installed and CCTV (that
is a little like shutting the door after the horse has bolted – once your money is taken,
it’s taken), but problems still occur. Thieves become more ingenious by the day, so
take heed of just a few ideas to keep your money safe.

Before you go.

Try to remember to advise your bank that you are travelling and if possible, tell them
which country or destination you are going to. They can flag up any suspicious
transactions without penalising you.

Treat your card as you would do cash

If you take cash abroad (this is becoming less likely with travellers who have
‘cottoned on’ to using prepaid travel cards. You generally are more careful of losing currency and will constantly be doing the ritual of checking pockets, inside pockets, bags or wallets with regularity. Treat your cards the same and never have your pin written down and stored with it.

Only use ATM’s from major banks

With the advance of clever devices created by potential thieves, card readers are
carefully installed at ‘non-bank’ machines such as those in hotels and stores where it
is easier not to be seen and where the facility can be used discreetly, or in this case,
tampered with. Whilst ATM’s at major banks can still suffer this vulnerability,
instances are far less frequent. Equally so, don’t just assume that every town or
village will have a more secure ATM – when you find one, take enough cash out until
you know you are going to return there.

Many ATM’s may have the instructions in the local language, so be aware what
buttons you are pressing – worth checking out before you use one.

Be safe – only use ATMs during daylight hours

Without being alarmist, robberies are very much a fact of life. At least by using an
ATM during the day from a reputable outlet, you will avoid most instances of
mugging and there will be other genuine people around to help you should you be
approached or threatened.

The most vulnerable destinations reported recently are Mexico, where women have
been kidnapped and held hostage until they handed over their cards and revealed,
under threat of rape, their relevant pin numbers. Columbia is also a danger zone with
the ‘motorbike gangs’, who wait by the roadside until you have taken out your cash
and then pounce. In other South American destinations, potential thieves will use
something such as photographic film to jam the ATMs, and whilst the unsuspecting
traveller goes into the building to complain, they return to steal the card, quickly and
stealthily. It has also been reported that South Africa and China are experiencing
increases in incidents with ATM’s.

Check your bank account or credit card account

If you can, it is worthwhile checking your accounts for cash withdrawals – however,
always use a secure internet connection to avoid others being able to log into your
account. Keep a tight hand on your mobile phone – many people use them to store
account numbers, pin numbers etc. If it is stolen, you can find yourself completely
wiped out of funds in a very short time.

Unfortunately, no ATM is infallible. Be vigilant and always try to take someone with
you when you withdraw, such as your partner or fellow traveller. There is more safety
in numbers. If you are the victim of an unfortunate incident, advise your bank
instantly – it really is worth the phone call

Written by Bev C