What to do if the ATM Took My Money?

Follow these instructions if an ATM has taken your money.


Have you just been to an ATM to withdraw cash and not received the money from the machine? Although it is rare for an ATM to malfunction, it, unfortunately, happens from time to time. As such, you must know what steps you’ll need to take to either get the funds credited back to your account or obtain the cash in hand that you so desperately need. 

In most cases, banks will rectify issues like these pretty quickly. However, there’s always the anxiety of waiting for a final decision. In addition, if you’re unfortunate enough to already have a low bank balance in your account, an incident like this could result in you experiencing even more stress. 

Why do ATMs Malfunction?

ATMs can malfunction for various reasons, including:

  • Unexpected power outages
  • It has read a deposit amount incorrectly
  • The machine may misread amounts on a check
  • The unit has been tampered with to commit ATM fraud

Dealing with ATM Malfunctions

As soon as you realize that the ATM has kept your money in error, you must ensure that you don’t attempt to perform any more transactions. In many cases, ATM malfunctions result from tampering on the machine, and this should also be reported if there are any visible signs that this has indeed occurred. 

The next step you’ll need to take is to record the exact time, date, and location of the ATM that has kept your cash. If there are several ATMs in the same area, it may be an idea to take a photo of the location. This will help bank officials and the repairperson to determine precisely which machine has malfunctioned. If there is a reference number on the ATM, record this as well. Finally, wherever possible, try to take a photo of the error code on the ATM screen if one appears – this could be extremely helpful for bank employees.

In cases where the faulty ATM is located inside a store, you should also report the malfunction to the customer service desk as soon as possible. This will allow the store to prevent anyone else from using the machine and dealing with a potential malfunction.

Another handy tip to remember if you intend to deposit cash at an ATM is to record the serial numbers on the notes in your possession. Having this on hand as evidence of the money you deposited will go a long way in helping to prove that you are the victim of an ATM malfunction at a specific machine. 

Contact your Bank Right Away

After recording the date, time, and location where the ATM has malfunctioned and kept your money, it’s time to get in touch with your bank or credit union as quickly as possible. The quicker you report the issue, the sooner it will usually be resolved by the institution that owns the ATM – meaning that you should be reimbursed as promptly as possible.

Although you technically have up to 60 days after receiving your monthly account statement to report any discrepancies, doing so as soon as the incident has happened will prevent you from waiting any longer than necessary to get your money back. 

It’s important to remember that under federal law, you are protected against ATM errors and malfunctions if you have used a debit card. However, regulations may differ if using a credit card to obtain a cash advance.

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