Guide to PINs

It is important to keep the four digit personal identification number (PIN) related to any credit and debit card safe, but what can you do to ensure your PIN is kept as secure as possible? And what do you do if you lose your PIN number, or need to change it? The following guide might help answer those questions.

Keeping your PIN secure

There are many things to consider when it comes to PIN security. Upon receiving your notification letter containing your new PIN, try to memorise the number as soon as possible and destroy the letter. Never write down your PIN nor keep it in your purse or wallet with your debit or credit card, and make sure to shred any statements you don’t want to keep before putting them in the bin.

Delivery of your card and PIN
The banking industry works closely with Royal Mail (and other organisations it uses to deliver its cards), to monitor card losses, identify fraud hot spots and take preventative action. Card companies use secure couriers to deliver to high-risk postcodes, or cards may be sent to your branch for collection. You may also be required to phone your card company to activate your card before it can be used.

You should:

  • pay attention to card expiry dates. If your replacement card hasn’t arrived, call your card company to check the status of your new card.
  • ensure you are the only person that knows your PIN. Banks or the police will never contact you in order to ask you to disclose it; anyone who does ask you for your PIN is probably a fraudster.
  • check statements regularly and carefully. If you find an unfamiliar transaction, contact your card company immediately.
  • be extra careful if you live in a property where other people have access to your mail such as a block of flats. In some cases your card company may arrange for you to collect your cards from a local branch.
  • contact the Royal Mail Customer Enquiry Line on 03457 740 740 if you suspect your mail is being stolen. Check if a mail redirect has been put in place without your knowledge.
  • tell your bank, card issuer and other organisations, such as utility suppliers, immediately if you move home. Ask Royal Mail to put a redirect in place from your old address to your new one for at least a year.

Using your card at a cash machine
Cash machines are generally very safe, however they do sometimes attract criminal attention so you still need to follow common sense precautions when withdrawing cash.

To minimise the chances of having your card or card details stolen at a cash machine:

  • stand close to the cash machine. Always shield the keypad with your free hand and your body to avoid anyone seeing you enter your PIN. This will protect your PIN from anyone who might be looking over your shoulder, and also help to keep your PIN safe if a fraudster has set up a hidden camera that is filming the keypad.
  • be alert and put your personal safety first. If someone is crowding or watching you, cancel the transaction and go to another machine. Do not accept help from seemingly well-meaning strangers and never allow yourself to be distracted.
  • fraudsters sometimes fit devices to cash machines that trap your card, which they then retrieve as soon as you have left the area. If your card is retained by the machine for any reason, report it to your card company immediately, ideally using your mobile phone while you are still in front of the machine. Make sure you have your card company’s 24 hour contact number stored in your mobile phone.
  • if you spot anything unusual about the cash machine, or there are signs of tampering, do not use it. Report it to the bank concerned immediately.
  • once you have completed a transaction put your money and card away before leaving the cash machine. Destroy or preferably shred your cash machine receipts, mini-statements or balance enquiries when you dispose of them.

It is also a good idea to follow this advice when using self service machines, such as when buying tickets or at petrol forecourts.

Using your contactless card
There’s been a huge rise in the use of contactless cards in the UK. One in four card payments are now contactless.

Contactless payments are fast, easy and secure. Although contactless transactions don’t require a PIN, from time-to-time you will be prompted to insert your card into the Chip & PIN reader and enter your PIN. This security check is in place to protect you from fraud and your card company restricts how much your card can be used before you will need to provide a PIN.

There is a £30 limit on contactless transactions. For transactions over £30 you will need to use Chip & PIN in the usual way, i.e. enter your PIN at the terminal.

Always take reasonable steps to keep your PIN and any security information secure, and if your card is lost or stolen report it to your card company as quickly as possible. More information about contactless cards can be found on The UK Cards Association website.

Keep It Secret, Keep It Safe – Protect Your PIN*
- Never share your PIN with anyone - the only times you should use your PIN is at a cash machine or in a shop.
- Ensure you are the only person that knows your PIN. Your bank or the police will never phone you and ask you to disclose it.
- Your bank will never ask you to authorise anything by entering your PIN into the telephone.
- Your bank or the police will never ring you and tell you that they are coming to your home to pick up your card, so never hand it over to anyone who comes to collect it.
- When entering your PIN into a cash machine at a point of sale, use your free hand and your body to shield the number, in case fraudsters have installed a hidden camera or are watching you over your shoulder. If you think someone has seen your PIN you can change it at a cash machine or by contacting your bank.

What if you forget your PIN?

There’s no need to panic if you forget your PIN - your card issuer will be able to provide you with a new one, usually within five working days. A contact phone number can usually be found on the back of your card underneath the signature strip. If the PIN belonged to the card you normally use in cash machines, your bank may be able to provide you with cash until you receive your new PIN, subject to you confirming your identity. If visiting a branch, you will probably be asked to present the following documentation when requesting money:

  • your bank card
  • photographic identification
  • proof of your name and address, such as a utility bill or a recent payslip

Changing your PIN

You might want to change your PIN to something easier for you to remember or simply for security reasons. Many cash machines offer customers the option to change PINs. As always, try to be vigilant while using the machine and make sure no one sees you entering your new PIN.

When changing your PIN, try to avoid using numbers that could be easily guessed or known by other people, such as your birthday or combinations like ‘1111’ or ‘1234’.

For a more thorough look at credit cards, please see our guide to credit cards explained.

*Taken from Financial Fraud Action, produced by Financial Fraud Action.

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