I stopped using ATMs about 6-7 years ago. Immediately I began saving money and tracking my finances became easier, not harder. When I was a kid in the 1960s I would have thought it laughable that 20 years in the future, bankers would come up with yet another profiteering idea, disguised as a “convenience” and actually find a way to make people pay money to withdraw their own funds from their banking account. No one would have ever believed the human race would fall for this “king of all scams” but they have, lock stock and barrel.
Millions of people, who are otherwise in their right minds, routinely run to an ATM, most often wherever they can find one, which implies they will pay a handsome little fee, and pay anywhere from $1.75 to $2.25 per transaction to get access to their own money out of their own bank account. The stupification of the human race is now complete. I have watched all this, marveling over it, for at least 25 years or so. I never actually needed to use an ATM. But for years when I was younger I would avail myself of the convenience, often for buying nothing more important than coffee and a doughnut.
One day when I was making money hand over fist in the web design business I sat down and added up all those moments, and what one month of them were costing me. I had to do a double take at the results. I re-arranged how I accessed and used money from that moment on, and began saving between $1200 and $1800 a year in bank fees, enough to enjoy an extra one or two week vacation.
But the gradual siphoning off of tiny financial fees from every person’s bank account in America and elsewhere is not the worst side effect of habitually using an ATM several times a week. Identity theft is the final indignity for the user of this cunningly contrived faux convenience. The article below helps ATM users to try to identify if the ATM they are frequenting has been tampered with in order to data-mine their personal information and account number. If an ATM user now has to actually inspect the facility and premises of the ATM location and equipment, on top of the slap in the face of paying for access to your own money, isn’t it high time to bid farewell to the dishonest dunning of bank account holders for the necessary function of accessing their own funds?
And yes, I am well aware that many banks allow their own account holders to pay no fees for withdrawals. But for serious travelers it is often more tedious to track down the proper “free” ATM location than to just use the one that is the closest. With gas on the west coast at $4.09 per gallon, making that extra 10 block trip to your own bank now saves little.
My life without banks and ATMs is wonderful. Without describing the particulars, yes it can be done, and it is both liberating, reclaims oodles of personal privacy and saves one a small fortune yearly. I highly recommend it.
CK Hunter 3.21.2011
Thursday, February 3, 2011
To help readers better protect themselves from thieves who want to swipe their sensitive debit card information, we’ve shared pictures in the past of how to spot skimming devices on ATMs.
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Skimmers applied to card readers (think fake card readers on top of the real ones) are designed to capture debit card magnetic stripe data, while tiny wireless cameras or overlays to existing personal identification number pads are designed to capture PIN information. Once thieves capture such data, they can use it to make fake cards or sell the information on the Internet to others.
Besides learning what skimming devices look like, consumers can also employ other strategies to spot the devices, according to John Pearce, director of commercial marketing for banking-financial and government systems at the security company ADT, which sells anti-skimming technology. He recently shared the following strategies with us.
Perform an ATM Inspection
Before swiping your card, Mr. Pearce recommended that consumers examine ATMs for tell-tale signs of skimmers like visible glue marks or residue around the reader or PIN pad. Also, look for loose parts (tug on the card reader, say, to see if it comes off or if there is a loose appendage recently added to the machine). “You want to inspect the card reader slots first and foremost,” Mr. Pearce said. “If there’s any residual of glue around the PIN pad area or around the card slot, there’s a pretty good chance there was skimming activity in the recent past.”
Perform an ATM Area Inspection
Mr. Pearce also recommended that consumers look around the ATM area to see if anything looks out of the ordinary. For instance, is there a cola can or pack of cigarettes on the top of the ATM or promotional literature nearby? If so, look closely to make sure there’s no miniature camera hidden in such spots. Check the ceiling above the ATM for such cameras as well. While legitimate security cameras for the banks will be clearly overt and visible, these cameras will be hidden and about three-fourths of an inch square in size, Mr. Pearce said.
Cover Your PIN
When you type in your PIN, Mr. Pearce recommended using your other hand to shield the keypad to block it from video cameras hidden in the light above the keypad or elsewhere. This can also help protect your information from “shoulder surfers,” people who Mr. Pearce said stand off to the side to try to record your PIN.
Know Which ATMs to Pay Special Attention To
Mr. Pearce recommended being extra vigilant and cautious when using ATMs at heavily trafficked areas like at malls, airports and gas stations. In many cases, he said, skimming can go unnoticed in such locations because there aren’t any personnel monitoring the machines. In addition, if you’re having problems using a machine, avoid any offers from help from strangers. “They know you are having a problem because they caused the problem to take place in the first place,” Mr. Pearce said, noting that they would ask for your personal identification number as they try to enter your card.
Know When to Use Your Credit Card
In situations where your card goes out of your line of sight (like at a restaurant or hotel), Mr. Pearce recommended using a credit card rather than a debit card.
- ATM ripoff uses glued-down keys (boingboing.net)
- Bucks: More on Spotting A.T.M. Skimmers (bucks.blogs.nytimes.com)
- ATM skimmer that doesn’t require any modifications to the ATM (boingboing.net)
- NON-ATM, ATM Skimmers (thesecuritypub.com)
- Green Skimmers Skimming Green (krebsonsecurity.com)
- ATM Skimmers, Up Close (krebsonsecurity.com)
- Having a Ball with ATM Skimmers (krebsonsecurity.com)
- 3D print-shop receives an order for an ATM skimmer (boingboing.net)
- Why You Should Cover The Keypad When Using an ATM [Video] (gawker.com)
- When to Avoid Using A.T.M.’s (bucks.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Beware: Sophisticated ‘skimmers’ out to steal your card data at ATMs (seattletimes.nwsource.com)