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ATM safety and security

ATM machine and person walking away

In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of automated teller machines (ATMs). These ATMs may be in financial institutions, shopping malls, convenience stores, etc., or free-standing.

ATMs pose three potential safety and security related problems:

  1. ATM machine or installation.
  2. Safety and security of employees of the financial institution which owns the machine who services it.
  3. Robbery of a person using an ATM.

Preventing ATM Theft

ATM user safety

ATM robbery is a serious concern. Victims of an ATM robbery often have other items like wallets, purses, credit cards and jewelry taken. When you use an ATM, follow these precautions to protect yourself and your money:

  • According to the Bank Administration Institute, the most dangerous hours for ATM crime are from 7 p.m. until midnight, when approximately 40 per cent of ATM-related crimes occur. Avoid using ATMs during these hours or take a companion with you.
  • Most ATM robberies often occur after the patron has completed their transaction. Always have your head up and be aware of your surroundings when you leave an ATM.
  • Keep your receipt and block your personal info from view. Criminals use high-powered equipment to visually capture cardholder's PINs as they are punched into keypads. By picking up discarded ATM transaction receipts, criminals can match up PINs and account numbers and have all the information they need to manufacture false ATM cards and gain access to consumer's money. This is referred to as "shoulder surfing."
  • At a drive-up ATM, keep all windows closed, except the one you are using, and all vehicle doors locked. Keep the vehicle running and be watchful of the vehicle's front, rear and sides. If someone approaches your vehicle on foot, cancel the transaction and leave.
  • If you drive to the ATM and exit your vehicle to use the ATM, lock all of vehicle doors after you exit it. Keep your keys handy so you can re-enter your vehicle quickly after completing your transaction.
  • When approaching the ATM, be alert for anything suspicious, especially two or more people in a nearby vehicle, particularly if no one else is at the ATM, or someone appears to be "hanging" around the area. Never approach an ATM if the lights at the site are not working.
  • When you are using the ATM and someone is closer to you than you would like them to be, ask them politely to step back a few steps. If they do not do so, cancel your transaction and leave.
  • Before you approach the ATM, have your card ready, know your code and if anything such as a deposit slip needs to be filled out, have it completed.
  • Protect your Personal Identification Number (PIN). Do not write your PIN on your ATM card or anywhere else. Don't share it with anyone. Select a PIN that is different from other numbers in your wallet or purse, such as your address, birth date, telephone or social security number.
  • When using the ATM, stand directly in front of the keyboard, blocking the view of others so they cannot see the screen.
  • When your ATM transaction is completed, immediately take your property - card, receipt, money, etc., put them in your pocket, wallet or purse and leave immediately. Never stand and count your money. You can count it later. If your transaction is inaccurate, you cannot discuss it with the machine.

The safest place to install an ATM machine

An attack could be made upon an ATM machine in order to steal the money in it.

ATM installations should be located in well-lighted areas (with lighting that cannot be extinguished "after hours"). If colour CCIV cameras are used, metal halide lighting or lighting that has been corrected for colour camera applications should be used.

If located within a building:
  • They should be built into a wall rather than be freestanding.
  • A CCIV camera should be installed behind a one-way mirror (this one-way mirror will also allow patrons to see who is behind them and monitor approaches to the ATM).
  • The area where the ATM is located should have floor to ceiling walls, and should have neither dropped ceilings or plaster walls.
  • The ATM should be electronically alarmed.
  • They should be monitored by closed-circuit television installations.

Safety and security of employees

The safety and security of guards or other employees of the financial institution, which owns the machine who services is a concern. The employees who replace cash in the ATMs have large amounts of money in their possession making them a target for criminal activity. In addition to following prescribed safety and security procedures, these persons should wear an identifiable uniform and always possess proper identification credentials.