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Protect Yourself at the ATM

In today’s world we are increasingly relying on technology in new areas of our lives. As Myanmar is finally seeing ATM machines installed in more and more places, most of us are very ecstatic at how convenient it is to be able to finally forgo the need to carry around stacks of hundred dollar bills.

While this is likely the beginning of the end of your worries that your money is now worthless in country because you somehow accidentally allowed a small crease to form in one corner of the bill, the modern practice of skimming is now more likely to cause you a much bigger headache if you get caught unaware by this scam.

While this problem has yet to largely spread to Myanmar as far as I am aware, foreign criminals have been targeting many of the other countries in the region. It is only likely a matter of time before they show up and try to catch off guard those who have not yet taken preventative measures against skimming. The skimming scammers tend to flock to tourist areas, and as the industry here grows it is not likely to go unnoticed.

Skimming is basically a blanket term to refer to one of many ways that criminals access your bank account by copying your card data, obtaining your password, and then creating a fake card to drain your account by accessing various ATM machines to draw out your money. It usually involves the crooks installing electronic devices to the ATM machine to copy the info on the card when it is inserted. Next they install a hidden camera somewhere to record your fingers punching in the password.

The first habit to get into to help protect yourself is easy, you simply cover up the keypad with your free hand while entering your password. This way even if they can copy your card, if they haven’t gotten the password they still cannot draw any money out.

I take things one step further because I like to make sure in the worst case scenario I am not too negatively affected. I set up one bank account which is specifically the “ATM account”, and I only transfer about one month’s worth of discretionary spending cash into this account at a time. This way if you still manage to fall victim to skimming somehow, it is not your life savings they can damage.

However, I still like to have emergency access to some more cash, so I have one ATM card which I never use linked to an account with significantly more cash in it. In the event you ever need to use this card, you simply call the bank as soon as possible after using it and request a pin change.

Unfortunately in today’s world there is a fine line between giving yourself convenient or even emergency access to your money and opening yourself up to the new modern forms of robbery. While having your ATM skimmed is still probably more enjoyable than the old fashioned gun in the face method criminals used to use, my guess is most of you out there would probably prefer to avoid both. With a few simple steps and forethought it is actually quite easy to protect yourself, so don’t wait until it’s too late.

David Mayes MBA provides wealth management services to expatriates throughout Southeast Asia, focusing on UK pension transfers. He can be reached at david.m@faramond.com. Faramond UK is regulated by the FCA and provides advice on taxation and pensions.

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