ATMs & online banking: Safety tips for overseas

There’s no doubt banking online is a quick and easy option for most people. Use of ATMs is also a convenient way to get cash. When you’re in a strange land, however, it pays to be a little more alert than you normally would.

At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, you really don’t know who is watching you. As a tourist, you stand out, sometimes for the wrong reason. So it pays to follow safe banking procedures always.

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Tips for safe banking when using a public or shared computer:

  • Ensure no-one can view your screen.
  • Always, and I mean always, log out of your online banking site by clicking on the ‘Logout’ or ‘Sign-out’ icon.
  • Close the browser by clicking on the ‘X’ icon, usually located at the top right-hand side of the screen.
  • Always access your online banking through your bank’s main web address.
  • Don’t give anyone your customer ID or online banking password.
  • If you suspect someone has your online banking details, change your password immediately.
  • If you are having trouble accessing online banking when you are overseas, know your bank’s phone number to call – and call them.

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Tips for safe banking when using an ATM overseas:

  • ATMs in every country and every region are different, and some are safer than others.
  • Make it a point to take a friend or friends with you every time you use an ATM.
  • Be aware of the environment around an ATM – is it well-lit, who is behind the shrub next to the ATM, who is that person sitting in the parked car near the ATM?
  • Select an ATM with a continuous transaction surveillance camera.
  • If possible, select an ATM that is monitored or patrolled by a security guard. (An ATM I used outside a busy, mainstream bank in Thailand actually had an armed policeman standing beside it!)
  • Do not wear expensive jewellery or take other valuables to the ATM.
  • Always cover the keypad with your hand when making an ATM transaction.
  • If you get cash out – put it away immediately. Do not stand at the ATM and count it.
  • Never accept offers of assistance with the ATM from strangers; ask the bank for help.
  • Never lend your ATM card to anyone; treat it as if it were cash.
  • Make sure you retain your transaction receipt. Do not throw the receipt away at the ATM site.
  • If you notice anything strange, leave and return some other time. Even if you have already started a transaction, cancel it and leave.

As far as your security is concerned, you can never be too careful, too prepared or too aware. Amen.

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