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Updated: 11:11 p.m. Wednesday, April 9, 2014 | Posted: 6:00 a.m. Wednesday, April 9, 2014

ATM Warning: Trade Convenience for Security

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By Clark Howard

ClarkHoward.com


Federal regulators have sent an alert to the banks about ATM network insecurity now that Windows XP is no longer supported. And there's one key thing you need to know to protect yourself.

Most ATMs use Windows XP as the underlying software, but that's only the tip of a very big iceberg. As a convenience, people routinely use various ATMs. They could be at a gas station, a supermarket, or a bank that's not your own. And therein lies the real danger.

Let's say I use an ATM that's not my bank's ATM and money of mine goes missing or the machine doesn't give me my money. The rules are so anti-consumer for what's called a "foreign ATM," i.e. not my own financial institution's ATM.

The thing is you cannot file a complaint with the operator of that foreign ATM. You have to go through your own institution which then contacts the operator. But there's no system in place if the operator plays dumb and doesn't fess up to anything going wrong. Then your bank just shrugs its shoulders and tells you, "Tough."

There is a whole different set of rules if the ATM is your bank's own. But if it's not, you're out of luck.

So I'm advising you to give up convenience for security right now. Don't use foreign ATMs. Use your own bank's ATMs.

Unfortunately, I can't eat my own cooking on this one. That's because I use Charles Schwab for banking and they don't have ATMs. I have to use foreign ATMs and then "Chuck" reimburses any fees I incur. I've never had a problem to this point, knock on wood, but I am taking a risk.

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