Debit Card & ATM Safety

Identity Protection
Debit Card & ATM Safety

Debit cards and ATMs are convenient, but you must protect your information. Learn more about how you can best protect your debit card and safely bank at an ATM.

Debit Cards and ATMs offer convenience and accessibility when trying to make purchases, deposit or withdraw funds. These conveniences also offer ideal preying grounds for thieves. Learn more about how you can best protect your debit card and safely bank at an ATM.

Ameris Bank Debit Card Fraud Identification and Prevention

Ameris Bank will automatically alert Ameris Bank debit card customers of possible fraudulent activity on their account. Customers do not need to enroll in this service, as the service is automatically provided. When potentially fraudulent debit card transactions are identified, our communication alert technology quickly and efficiently engages with personal and business customers across many communication channels:

  1. Real-time, two-way SMS text for quicker fraud identification and prevention,
  2. Interactive voice, and
  3. Email fraud notifications if no response is received by text or phone calls.

Alert Times: Emails will be sent 24 hours, texts will be sent from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. in the cardholder’s time zone, and calls will be made from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. in the cardholder’s time zone. Texts and voice calls pending from the night before will be triggered the following morning at the applicable time noted above. For Canadian consumers, both text and email alerts are available. Our fraud alert agents are available 24/7.

Text Message Costs: U.S. consumers who have service through AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile will not be charged message or data rates for our fraud alerts.

Responding to Alerts: If you respond back to an alert that the transaction(s) are valid, your account will be unblocked. Please note that it may take 5-10 minutes for a block to be removed in some situations. If a transaction is declined due to suspected fraud, and you then validate that you did make the purchase, you can attempt the transaction again, usually within 5 – 10 minutes of the initial call/text/email to validate activity.

Stopping Alerts: If you don’t want to receive text message fraud prevention alerts, all you need to do is respond back to the SMS text alert with the word STOP.

Alerts when Traveling Internationally: We are unable to send text or phone calls internationally, but please make sure your email address is current as we can always email you 24/7.

Protecting Yourself at the ATM

Through a method called ATM Skimming, thieves use devices to pull information from the magnetic strip on the back of your ATM card. A skimmer device is typically located very close or over the ATM card reader. Thieves use plaster and plastic to conceal the device, making it look part of the manufacturer’s design. Small cameras are also being used to capture users’ PINS.

In order to protect yourself and your information when using an ATM, consider the following ATM safety tips:

  • Be aware of your surroundings, especially at night. If the ATM is not well-lit or if shrubbery is overgrown, do not use the ATM and notify the bank.
  • If possible, take a friend with you to the ATM especially at night. Your friend will be able to observe the surroundings, while you complete your transaction.
  • Before arriving at the ATM, be prepared by having your card and other items ready to use. When looking down to search in your purse or wallet for your card, you become an ideal target for thieves.
  • Be observant of the ATM. If you notice tape residue, do not use the ATM, as many thieves use double-sided adhesives when placing skimming devices. You should report the residue immediately to the bank for further investigation.
  • Be observant of the ATM key pad. If there is sticky residue on the keys or the keys are hard to push, cancel your transaction and report this to the bank immediately. Thieves use these tactics in order to steal PIN numbers.
  • Be sure to conceal your PIN at all times. Use your body to shield your PIN from individuals waiting in line and your hand to shield your PIN from possible PIN capturing devices. Also, never share your PIN with others or write it down on the back of your card.
  • When finishing your transaction, always take your receipt. Do not throw your receipt away in a nearby trashcan, but instead, tear it up or shred it if possible. Thieves search trashcans located near ATMs for receipts so they can uncover valuable information.
  • If you are using a drive-thru ATM, always make sure all your doors are locked and windows are rolled up.
  • Never count your cash in public. Instead, wait to count your money when you return to your locked car.
  • Beware of using ATMs in tourist areas, as these are popular targets for skimming. If you need to use an ATM, try to use an ATM located inside a building.

Preventing Debit Card Fraud

Did you know that more than 67% of all purchases are made with debit cards? To keep your money safe, treat your debit card like you do your cash. It’s very easy for a dishonest person to steal your debit card information and spend your money.

When using a debit card, it is possible that you could be responsible for illegal charges, because debit cards don’t carry the same legal protections as credit cards. All credit card purchases in the United States are protected by a law known as the Fair Credit Billing Act. Under this law you can only be held accountable for a maximum of $50 for credit card fraud. Debit cards are covered under a different law – the Electronic Fund Transfer Act – and the rules are much more complex.

If you discover your card is missing or has been abused, call Ameris Bank within two business days of the discovery and your losses are limited to no more than $50. But if you wait, you might be liable for all of the losses. With a credit card, the charge is generally reversed until it is investigated further; but with a debit card, the charge stays on while the transaction is investigated. You’ll have to wait at least 10 days, sometimes longer, before your missing funds are replaced.

Follow these tips to help prevent debit card fraud:

  • Keep cards you don’t use often in a safe place. And know where your card is at all times.
  • Never share your PIN with anyone, not even family members. And never write the PIN on the card.
  • Always shield your PIN with your hand to prevent someone from stealing it, especially at an ATM or debit terminal. Be aware of your surroundings before using a terminal.
  • Understand when you should NOT use your debit card. It’s not wise to use your debit card when making online purchases. Same goes for purchases such as car rentals, hotel stays or at gas pumps. Use your credit card instead. Pay your balance off in full every month and you will pay no interest, earn rewards, and have greater protection against fraud.
  • Always keep your debit card in sight when conducting transactions at checkout. If the cashier needs to take your card to another location, such as they often do at restaurants, pay with cash or a credit card instead. Never let your debit card leave your sight.
  • Check your account regularly for suspicious activity.
  • Report any problems or questions, including transactions you think may be unauthorized, right away. Again, quick action can limit misuse and save you money.

Cell Phone Debit Card Scams

Criminals are soliciting and contacting customers via cell phone text messages and voice recordings in an effort to con customers by illegally obtaining personal information.

  • These text messages and voice recordings may look and sound authentic.
  • They may resemble those sent by legitimate financial institutions, but they are fraudulent.
  • Recordings will claim that the customer’s debit card has been deactivated and to reactivate, the customer must enter their debit card number followed by the Personal Identification Number (PIN).

Should you receive a text or voice recording like this, do not provide your debit card number or PIN. Contact us immediately to receive guidance on blocking fraudulent transactions. For additional information on Scams, visit, the federal government’s website to help you be safe, secure and responsible online.

Making Secure Online Transactions

There is no absolute guarantee of safety on the web, but you can minimize online privacy or security problems by using websites you know and trust. Try to use sites you’ve used previously or that are recommended by trusted friends or family.

The Internet is now more secure for credit card use, compared to everyday use where you hand your card over without thought to waiters and store clerks, and when giving out your credit card number over the phone. E-commerce websites require a commitment to securing transactional details, including credit card information from customers. They use one of the many available encryption techniques which scramble the exchange of information between you and the website you are visiting so that it cannot be tampered with, corrupted or copied. Encryption is provided through a document the website provides called a certificate.

Secure websites and pages will feature two important conditions that indicate they are using encryption technology and a Secure Socket Layer. This is indicated by “https” (letter ”s” after the http portion of the URL), and means that the server is a secure one. In your browser, you will also see a lock icon in the Security Status bar. The Security Status bar is located on the right side of the Address bar. The certificate that is used to encrypt the connection also contains information about the identity of the website owner or organization. You can click the lock to view the identity of the website. Even if the connection between your computer and the website is secure, it does not guarantee that the website is trustworthy. Your privacy can still be compromised by the way the website uses or distributes your information, so you should read their Privacy Statement.

Any computer that you do not own or control should be treated as if it is infected with viruses and other malicious programs and should never be trusted. If you must use a computer other than your own, follow these few simple rules:

  • Never use public computers to make financial transactions or to enter personal information. Public computers may have programs that log keystrokes (keyloggers), as well as other spyware that snatches sensitive information. Wait to make your Internet transactions until you get home.
  • Disable the feature that stores login information and passwords. Uncheck the box on the login page so that no one can log in as you.
  • Always log out of websites by clicking “log out” on the site. It’s not enough to simply close the browser window or type in another address.
  • Erase your tracks. Delete your temporary Internet files and your browsing history.
  • Watch for over-the-shoulder snoops. When you use a public computer, be on the lookout for thieves who look over your shoulder or watch what you’re doing.

When using Public or Unsecured Wi-Fi:

  • Use a VPN connection. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) works by encapsulating network traffic in an encrypted tunnel to a secure endpoint. Traffic is both encrypted and authenticated, rendering an attacker helpless to read or modify traffic.
  • Require “https”. Users should require all websites that send or receive personal information to use SSL. This includes your webmail. Many social media sites now offer SSL.
  • Don’t connect to unsecured wireless hotspots automatically; configure your computer not to automatically connect to a wireless network. This will prevent you from accidentally exposing private/confidential information because you might think you are on a secure network when in fact you are not.
  • Run a firewall program on your laptop. Firewalls guard against attack from other computers also connected to the unsecured network. You wouldn’t want someone connecting to your computer and possibly downloading information from your hard drive.
  • Ensure that your computer has virus and malware protection. If you don’t install one, your computer is sure to pick up a virus/malware soon.
Information presented in the Financial Advice website is provided for educational purposes only and is not related to Ameris Bank's actual products or services. Ameris Bank makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness or specific suitability of any information presented. Information provided should not be relied on or interpreted as accounting, financial planning, investment, legal or tax advice. Ameris Bank recommends you consult a professional for any specific guidance you are seeking.