Q COSTA RICA – We can’t stress this enough, especially this time of year when the last thing you need is to be scammed and by your local ATM. This even more so for visitors on business or holidays in Costa Rica.

State banks - Banco Nacional, Banco de Costa Rica and Banco Popular have restricted hours at their ATMs, while most private banks have 24/7 access to all their ATMs.
State banks – Banco Nacional, Banco de Costa Rica and Banco Popular have restricted hours at their ATMs, while most private banks have 24/7 access to all their ATMs.

Though banks do their best to make their ATM experiences a safe one, ‘skimming’ – the copying of bank card information –  does still happen.

Financial institutions recommend taking extra security measures when using an ATM.

David Hernandez, director of security at the Banco Nacional (BN) recommends that before inserting the card check for foreign objects in the slot and do not use the machine if you detect any “irregular” situation. The security official adds that it should be reported to the bank asap.

Banks in Costa Rica say that a high percentage of ATMs in the country have internal protection mechanisms, monitoring and constant physical inspections.

Mariana Herrera, manage of ATM systems at Scotiabank, commented that in cases of the elderly they are scammed by third parties who offer help to make their transactions.

Other scams include a third-party coming to assistance at an ATM giving problems. The help could be coming from perpetrators who are somehow able to obtain your card information, but need your PIN. This is where you come in.

Throwing away in or around the ATM the receipt is a bad habit. Either keep the copy on you or opt for the no receipt.

If in need of cash, bank officials recommend the use of an ATM located in safe places such as branches or shopping centres.

Important to note that ATMs of state banks – Banco Nacional (BN), Banco Popular and Banco de Costa Rica (BCR) have restricted hours. Meanwhile, most of the ATMs of private banks operate on a 24 hour basis.

At the Nacional and Popular, their ATMs operate from 6:00am to 10:00pm; in the case of the BCR from 5:00am to midnight.

What to do if the ATM eats (retains) your card? If the ATM is located at a branch and during business hours, simply walk into the branch and explain the situation. At other times you will need to call the bank and provide the exact location of the ATM to coordinate its return.

The above also applies to being shortchanged. Always count your cash, best to do it while still at the ATM and away from prying eyes, to ensure you have the correct amount. In case of a discrepancy visit the branch or call the bank asap.

All the above can be eliminated with the new technology being developed. In Costa Rica, BAC Credomatic is the leader in providing its customers new services, such as FULL ATM’s (automated teller machines that take deposits of cash or checks) and its “2móvil”, using your smartphone at the ATM instead of a card. More information on 2movil can be found here (in Spanish).