Withdraw with wisdom from ATMs

Published: 21 November, 2013 08:04 IST | Hemal Ashar |

With Wisdom Recently, a bank employee in Bangalore was brutally attacked with a machete inside an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) booth. Here, an expert talks about ATM crime and security measures, while admitting that the ATM by its very definition is a crime target

Bangalore or Bengaluru is reeling from the attack on a woman in her 40s inside an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) booth on November 19. These ATMs are also popularly known as Any Time Money machines and by their definition become targets for criminals, preying on people removing cash. They also make fraudulent cards or in some bigger crime cases, have attacked the ATM personnel.

Machine scene: Play your cards right

In this gruesome instance, the woman, entered the ATM in which no security guard was present, to withdraw cash when the assailant followed her inside and brought down the shutter before threatening her with a machete. When the woman resisted, the assailant attacked her with the machete before closing the shutter and escaping.

Money, money: John Abraham at an ATM inauguration

Here, Cape Town, South Africa based Michael Lee, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Automated Teller Machines Industry Association (AITMA), a global non-profit trade association established in 1997, with members in 60 countries talks ATM etiquette and why these machines, technological wonders in themselves, attract crime.

First up, Lee states when told about the crime, “I am personally sad to hear of this tragic incident and truly hope that the victim of the brutal crime can recover and be healed. I also trust the criminal will be apprehended and face justice. ATMs have been a trusted self-service device for decades and that the vast majority of ATM transactions are conducted without problems. However we need to take simple precautions to minimize risk.”

Excerpts from an interview:
Is there a global standard that banks are supposed to have for their ATMs, in Mumbai which is a crowded city, one sees ATMs squeezed anywhere, in residential buildings, near shops, in bylanes… is there any stipulation about where ATMs can be located? 
Lee: There is no standard size and we must bear in mind that there are just over 4,00,000 ATMs in the USA, for instance, so this kind of penetration of the technology per capita is to be expected in a large growing economy.

Are all ATMs supposed to have CCTVs? If so, is there a requirement for how many cameras there should be?
Lee: ATMIA does not call for compulsory CCTV use at all ATMs because it is a decision each operator has to make depending on their risk assessment for each specific location, and, their operational requirements.

Some ATMs have security measures on the screen or printed alongside like telling people to shield the keypad or not reveal their pin to strangers. Is this a necessity, like maybe, the safety manual and instructions to people taking a flight?
Lee: Yes. Like driving a car and fastening a safety belt or safety instructions on a plane, there are a few simple security precautions customers can take to protect themselves and their bank cards such as NEVER reveal your PIN to ANYONE, with your free hand cover the keypad to stop any unwelcome surveillance of your PIN while keying it in, use familiar ATMs and avoid badly lit ATMs if there is anything suspicious you don’t trust.

There has been a spate of robberies when people access ATMs from being shadowed by would be assailants, to having their money snatched from their any safety guideline for people accessing ATMs on the whole? Any dos and don’ts?
Lee: Never accept help at ATMs from a stranger. In general use either familiar ATMs or ones, which are located in well-lit or busy public places. Never share your PIN. When it is late or deserted in that area, the customer may either go accompanied to the ATM or choose another, well-situated ATM. Do a quick survey of the surroundings before using the ATM at odd hours to see if there is anything suspicious.

By definition, ATMs are vulnerable spots to crime in a way. Because of the Any Time Money definition at night and the wee hours of the morning when, these remain open for 24 hours, it may be lonely and dark… Comment.
Lee: You’re right; it is important to keep ATMs open 24 x 7 but the other side of that coin is the need for customers to take a few simple precautions, which are like buckling up the safety belt when driving in car.

Some people have suggested that ATMs have alarm bells within the ATM itself, which can act as an alert. Is there anything you wish to say to that?
Lee: This could create more problems than it solves and we would not support that. We urge all ATM deployers to do proper risk assessments for each ATM location and to implement security best practices according to the risk.

Could you give us an outline of how ATMs may differ because of the cultural milieu of different countries? For instance, ATM usage in the West in general may be different from that in Asia…
Lee: The ATM industry is a global village and most of the manufacturers are global. so most machines are the same worldwide. There may be a few cultural differences like more use of biometrics instead of PINs in some rural areas in India or customization of the screen messages, etc. And, don’t forget cash itself is a national symbol, unique to the nation and the major function of all ATMs is dispensing national banknotes with their cultural and national symbols. 

PIN points
>> Protect your PIN by standing close to the ATM. Shielding the key pad with the other hand, wallet or keys.
>> Check if anything looks unusual or suspicious about the ATM. If it appears to have anything stuck onto the card slot or keypad, do not use it. Cancel the transaction and walk away. Never try to remove suspicious devices.
>> Be cautious if strangers offer to help you at an ATM, even if your card is stuck or you’re having difficulties.
>> Where possible, use an ATM, which is in clear view and well lit.
>> Keep your PIN a secret. Never reveal it to anyone, even someone who claims to be calling from your bank, or a police officer.
>> Check your account balance regularly and check your bank statements, and report any discrepancies to your bank immediately.    

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