Stay Safe with These ATM Security Tips

ATMs may be one of the easiest ways to access the money in your bank account, but they are also a target for theft. Criminals have been known to try taking cash right out of your hands upon leaving the ATM, or even stealing your personal identification number (PIN) at the ATM. This risk can be higher depending on the machine’s location or the time of day. Don’t let this scare you from ever using an ATM again though – you can take plenty of safety precautions to protect yourself and your money.

Here are our top ATM security tips for the next time you plan to withdraw money.

Keep your PIN private

If someone can steal your PIN, they can likely pretend to be you and use your account. That’s why it’s essential to be aware of your surroundings when using your card at an ATM. Someone waiting in line behind you can peer over your shoulder to see your PIN, or even withdraw more money if you forgot to end your transaction before walking away.

A more stealthy way criminals can try to take your money is by installing card skimmers on ATMs to capture people’s debit cards. Skimmers are hard to identify, making it challenging to even know your information has been compromised. Without taking proper precautions, your information can be sold online or used by criminals to make purchases.

Here are some tips for protecting your ATM/Debit card:

  • Inspect the ATM for possible skimming devices. Some red flags include sticky residue from an adhesive, damaged pieces, loose or extra attachments on the card slot, or noticeable resistance with pressing the keypad. Check out our ATM card skimming and fraud prevention guide for more information and images.
  • Cover your hand over the ATM keypad as you enter your PIN so no one around you can see.
  • Never write down your PIN or tell anyone your number. Keep it as private as possible.
  • Never give information about your ATM card or PIN over the phone. If your bank calls asking for you to verify your PIN, it is likely a scam.
  • Consistently check your accounts for suspicious activity.
  • Keep your card in a safe place and don’t ever leave it lying around – even at home.

Be alert at the ATM

No matter where you’re using an ATM, you’ll need to scan your surroundings for suspicious activity. If you notice someone waiting in a nearby car or hanging around while keeping an eye on you, try coming back later or using a different ATM. You’ll want to use your judgment – if something doesn’t feel safe, you’re probably right.

After withdrawing cash, stay alert. Some criminals may try to follow you. If you think that’s the case, find a heavily populated area and call the police. We recommend following these precautions every time you visit the ATM:

  • Bring someone with you when you go to the ATM.
  • Lock your doors at drive-thru ATMs.
  • Avoid using ATM machines at night.
  • Have your card ready as you get to the ATM, and do not linger and count your cash once it’s withdrawn from the machine.
  • Don’t leave your transaction receipt at the ATM.
  • If someone approaches you at the ATM and demands money, give it to them. No amount of money is worth risking your life. Call the authorities as soon as you’re somewhere safe if this happens.

View additional ATM skimming safety tips in our YouTube video.

At First Financial, we are here to help protect our members from fraud, scams, and identity theft. If you have any concerns or questions about any of your First Financial accounts, please call member services at 732.312.1500 or visit one of our branches.

Want to see more articles like this? Subscribe to First Financial’s monthly newsletter for financial resources and advice.

What To Do When Your Debit Card is Compromised

Have you ever gotten a letter in the mail from your bank saying that your account may have been compromised? If you’ve ever had this happen before, it elicits all sorts of questions. Was there fraudulent activity on my account? Who ‘may have’ compromised my card, and when? Am I liable financially?

First of all, getting a letter like this doesn’t necessarily mean there was a fraudulent transaction. Your bank is simply following a standard precaution. What it does mean is there was suspicious activity associated with your debit card. Your card number and name might have been obtained by an unauthorized source, usually at a retail location with a card processing system targeted by hackers.

Secondly, your bank may not even know where and when the card was potentially compromised. Mastercard, Visa and other card companies don’t usually release this information to the bank unless there’s a massive breach. Card companies simply notify the bank of suspicious activity, and your bank follows its standard policy – which is usually to cancel the card number and issue a new one.

Thirdly, even though you don’t know if, when, and where the compromise might have occurred, it’s important to do your own research. Besides credit card companies, banks also monitor account activity. This offers another level of assurance, but you can never be too cautious. We should always keep a close eye on our bank accounts, especially since small, ordinary transactions can be easily overlooked. Hackers often test a stolen card number this way before making major purchases or withdrawals (like dipping a toe in the water to test the temperature before plunging in). So if you do receive a letter like this in the mail, immediately check your account activity. If there are any unauthorized transactions, call the bank and report them.

Lastly, examine your habits for anything that is leaving your card number vulnerable. Have you been using your debit card more than usual? If you make frequent electronic purchases, use a credit card – which at least won’t risk your personal checking and savings accounts getting wiped out.

Along with this, consider the following precautions:

  • When making online purchases, always look for the secure “lock” icon.
  • Listen to your instincts if anything looks fishy about a website you’re entering personal information into.
  • Clear your web browser history frequently. Don’t let your computer save passwords, and delete cookies.
  • Don’t respond to emails requesting verification of personal information. Because of the risks, your bank will never ask you to do this.
  • Be skeptical of application downloads and updates, even if they look legitimate. Scammers are great at creating imitations that install spyware on your computer.
  • Use a quality anti-virus and anti-malware program and make sure it’s enabled to run routine scans.

If you have a First Financial Debit Card – Enroll it in Visa Purchase Alerts today! You’ll get an email each time your Debit Card is used over an amount you set, when your card is used outside the county, or when your card is used to make a purchase online or over the phone.

 Article Source: Jessica Sommerfield for

The Basics: Student Checking

Students with laptop computerMany young adults enter the “real world” lacking the proper knowledge in financial literacy. The following information will assist with setting up and understanding the features and benefits of student checking accounts more clearly.

What Can a Checking Account do for You?

A checking account offers easy accessibility to your money anytime, anywhere and it also helps keep your cash secure – often times through use of a debit card. A debit card is a card that grants you electronic access to the money in your account, which is often referred to as a check card. You may also receive checks to make purchases or pay bills from your checking account. This makes it easier to spend and receive money without carrying cash. Checking accounts are also important for building credit, which you will need to make major purchases such as a car or a house in the future.

A great checking account option for students is Student Checking. The perks of Student Checking accounts vary among financial institutions, but many include free checks, free ATM usage, and better loan rates.


Before opening a checking account, make sure you are prepared. Here are a few tips to remember when you begin the process:

  • Get all of your personal documents together. You will have to prove that you are who you say you are, to open an account. Make sure you have the proper identification such as a driver’s license, photo I.D. card, and Social Security card.
  • Know what services your credit union or financial institution offers. Does the institution provide online banking and bill pay? What fees (if any) does the account charge?
  • Look for branch and ATM locations. When choosing a financial institution, it’s a good idea to check for locations near your home, job, or school. It’s also a good idea to consider the locations and availability of their ATMs.
  • Be able to identify fraud. Many Americans have been exposed to financial scams as of late, and even more are unable to identify classic red flags. Common fraud attempts include propositions for “educational” investment meetings, or being offered money in exchange for paying a fee or making an initial deposit. Use common sense and be cautious around offers that seem too good to be true.

First Financial offers Student Checking to students who live, work, worship, or attend school in Monmouth or Ocean County, ages 14-23.*

The account includes the following features and benefits:

  • A free first box of checks and an allowance of the first mistake being free+
  • Free phone transfers to the account by parents
  • No per-check charges
  • No minimum balance requirements
  • No monthly service charge for having the account
  • A Debit Card issued instantly in one of our Monmouth or Ocean County      branches.
  • Free Online Banking with Bill Pay++
  • Unlimited in-branch transactions

Remember that it is important to establish yourself financially as a student. After your schooling is finished, you will begin your search for a career. Understanding your account and personal finance can only help you when you begin this independent stage of life, and First Financial is here to help you every step of the way!

*A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account. All personal memberships are part of the Rewards First program and a $5 per month non-participation fee is charged to the base savings account for memberships not meeting the minimum requirements of the program. Click here to view full Rewards First program details. Accounts for children age 13 and under are excluded from this program.

 What the symbols mean:
+ Call or visit a branch to request refund of the first fee incurred. We must receive request within 90 days of date fee is charged in order to be eligible for refund. The eligible fees are NSF, Overdraft, and Courtesy Pay fees.
++ Bill Pay is free as long as 3 bills are paid through Bill Pay each month, otherwise a $6 monthly fee applies. 

Article Resources:–pick-a-checking-account-to-fit-your-student