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Tips to help you avoid cash machine scams

Esther Shaw / 25 March 2015 ( 05 March 2020 )

Cashpoint machines are a hugely convenient way to access your money. While most withdrawals are safe and hassle-free, ATMs can also be an easy target for criminals. We share some useful tips to help prevent cash machine scams:

Person typing in their PIN at a cash machine
Always cover your PIN when you use an ATM

Cash machines offer the simplest way, day to day, for people to get hold of their money, and the majority of withdrawals take place crime-free.

Despite this, there is, unfortunately, a risk of getting scammed.

Here’s our guide to some of the common-sense steps you should take to help you stay safe at the ATM and avoid being caught by a cash machine scam.

Check the card slot and fascia

Always use a modern ATM belonging to a reputable institution. Don’t ever use a machine that looks as though it has been tampered with.

Fraudsters can use skimming devices to capture your data – so be on your guard.

If you suspect that a skimming device has been attached to a cashpoint, inform staff within the bank. If this is not possible, inform the police.

Put safety first, and do not attempt to remove it yourself. Also bear in in mind that the police may want to examine any device found.

Five ways scammers steal your personal information

Look around you

When using a cash machine, remain vigilant at all times. Be aware of your personal space, what’s going on around you, and check if there are people behind you.

If someone close to the cash machine is behaving suspiciously, or makes you feel uncomfortable, choose another one.

Make sure your shield the keypad when tapping in your PIN to avoid thieves “shoulder surfing”. This is where scammers look over your shoulder to get hold of log-in details.

Equally, if someone attempts to talk to you when you’re drawing out cash, be very wary.

Do not accept help from seemingly well-meaning strangers, and never allow yourself to be distracted.

Make sure you keep your eyes on both your card and the money coming out of the machine at all times.

The fake telephone preference service scam

Keep your PIN hidden

Even if there is no-one in the vicinity, you still need to take precautions, and should stand close to the cash machine and cover the keypad when typing in your PIN.

Determined scammers have been known to place pin-hole cameras on the machine itself to capture your details.

Once you have completed a transaction, put both your money and card away discreetly before leaving the ATM. And always make doubly sure you have done so, and not left either your card or cash behind at the machine.

Warning signs that you've been a victim of identity theft

Use cash machines inside banks

Where possible, use a cash machine located inside your bank, as it is much harder for scammers to tamper with these machines.

There is also less risk of you getting mugged, as there will be a host of security measures in place, as well as more people around.

Report swallowed cards

If an ATM swallows your card – or your cash – try to stay close to the machine and call your bank or card provider right away.

And when disposing of your ATM receipt, mini-statement or balance enquiry, make sure you tear it up. Better still, shred it well before you bin it.

Read our tips to protect yourself from identity fraud.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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