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Exercise caution at an ATM

Carrying cash makes you a target for opportunistic criminals. Following these simple tips will keep you and your cash safe.

ATMs are a favourite target for criminals simply due to their increased usage and accessibility to customers, day and night.

The unprecedented load-shedding around the country has also exacerbated the problem and fraudsters are taking advantage of dimly lit areas to prey on vulnerable people.

They can be a perfect hunting ground for criminals and these perpetrators usually work in teams.

Older people are particularly susceptible, as are foreigners who are unfamiliar with the local banking system.

“ATM hints and tips are much like the safety instructions one receives on a plane. After a while, one tends to zone out and not pay attention, but just like these instructions could save your life in a crash, the same can be said for ATM tips. It’s natural to become lazy about things that are routine, but ATM awareness should not be one,” said Charnel Hattingh, head of group marketing and communications of Fidelity Services Group.

There are a number of different scams fraudsters use like card swopping and ATM skimming but here are the eight most basic golden rules one needs to follow to stay safe:

• Never draw money from an ATM in a dimly lit area or where there are nearby loiterers. You have to be alert to your surroundings and leave if you notice anyone loitering suspiciously.

“It is much better to choose familiar and well-lit ATMs where you are visible and safe,” said Hattingh.

• Have your card ready in your hand before you approach the ATM to avoid opening your purse, bag or wallet while in the queue and remember to always be cautious of strangers offering to help as they could be trying to distract you in order to get your card or pin.

This is particularly relevant for older people.

• Follow the instructions on the ATM screen carefully and only punch in your pin once prompted by the ATM.
• If your card does not go in smoothly do not force it in. Rather leave the ATM and remember to report suspicious items or people around ATMs to the bank.

Toll-free numbers are displayed on all ATMs or on the back of your card.

• If your card is swallowed do not leave the ATM before you have cancelled your card.

• Memorise your pin, never have it written down or share it with anyone and always key in your pin yourself and in such a way that no one else can see.

• Never let anyone stand close to you while using the ATM.

• After successfully transacting at the ATM, leave immediately. Some fraudsters wait until you’ve drawn your cash to take advantage.

Be cautious of strangers requesting you to return to the ATM to finalise/close the transaction because they are unable to transact.

Skimming may occur during this request. Your card may have been skimmed.

“Finally remember you are now carrying cash and could become a target once your guard is down. Unfortunately, with many people feeling under financial pressure and unemployment numbers still so high, opportunistic crime remains a real threat,” said Hattingh.

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