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10 ways to protect your PIN

Just when you are feeling confident about building strong passwords to protect your online life comes the next security challenge: safeguarding your four-digit personal identification number.

PINs can be tricky to use safely. Their short, numerical nature makes the temptation to choose an easily guessed number such as a birthday almost irresistible, and PINs see heavy action in public in front of prying eyes at every checkout counter.

How can you keep your PIN and credit or banking cards safe and secure? suggests 10 ways you can do that. These are:

  • Don’t choose a PIN based on obvious, publicly searchable information such as your telephone number, birthday, address or national identity number.
  • Never write your PIN number on the card itself or on anything else in your wallet.
  • Never record your PIN number in your cell phone.
  • Shield the keypad with your body or your other hand when entering your PIN at an ATM or store.
  • Don’t let your card out of sight once you’ve handed it to a cashier.
  • Be aware of your surroundings when you’re using an ATM, especially if anyone seems to be standing too close for comfort. If you feel uneasy, cancel your transaction and go to another location.
  • Verify that the ATM you’re using has completed your transaction and closed your account before leaving; and make sure to take your card and receipt with you.
  • Never allow a bank or merchant employee to enter your PIN, even if they are helping troubleshoot a problem.
  • Don’t give your PIN number to anyone, even your banker or store representatives, who are assisting you with an issue.
  • Beware of emails that ask for or require you to list your PIN, even if they appear to come from PenFed, the merchant associated with your card. If you’re suspicious, contact the institution independently, without clicking on or replying to that email.

Four tips for protecting your account

  • Cover your password with your hand

Hidden cameras are disguised so they can pick up your password. By protecting it, ATM thieves can’t access your account, according to

  • Use familiar ATMs and limit your visits

The ATMs in dimly lighted spots or those used late at night can be more susceptible to fraud, while ATMs under video surveillance can be safer. Stay away from ATMs at retail stores or restaurants, advicesSiciliano. Recently, skimming devices were found on ATMs in a popular grocery store in central Florida.

In Nigeria, skimming devices were found on some ATMs in Lekki and Ikoyi axis of Lagos. Airports, convenience stores and kiosks are equally vulnerable to ATM thieves. Even highly trafficked ATMs outside a bank branch have been targeted by thieves.

So, try to limit your visits to the ATM. “With frequency, there’s risk,” says Siciliano.

  • Check account balances frequently

Given the two-day window for reporting fraud, it pays to check your account frequently. If you don’t report fraud within 60 days, you have unlimited liability. “Sign up for alerts and notice unusual withdrawals,” Vamosi suggests.

With credit cards, there is more protection in place, and you can dispute charges.”You have at least a billing cycle,” says Siciliano.

  • Observe the ATM

Vamosiadvises customers to look at an ATM well to make sure that the card slot is “legitimate and not tacked on.” Look for things that strike you, he says. “Some people have felt that when they inserted their cards, something went awry,” he says. In that case, try another ATM. Protecting your account against ATM thieves “is all about awareness, paying attention and understanding risks,” says Sicilano.

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