Tuesday, October 9, 2007

ATM Safety Tips

Withdrawing cash from an ATM can represent a significant risk of robbery. Certain measures can be taken to reduce your vulnerability when making an ATM transaction. Take a look at some statistics from the USDOJ, Community Oriented Policing Services.

A few studies, although they are becoming dated, have provided some data on common ATM robbery patterns. The general conclusions are as follows:

· Most robberies are committed by a lone offender–using
some type of weapon–against a lone victim.
· Most occur at night, with the highest risk between midnight and 4 a.m.
· Most involve robbing people of cash after they have made a withdrawal.
· Robberies are somewhat more likely to occur at walk-up
ATMs than at drive-through ATMs.
· About 15 percent of victims are injured.
· The average loss is between $100 and $200.

While these statistics are not particularly detailed, some information on risk assessment can be taken from them. First, most people robbed at an ATM are there alone when approached by the robber. Second, most victims are using the ATM at night, with the highest risk between midnight and 4 a.m. This time frame coincides with the closing of restaurants and bars and begs the question; how many of these victims had been drinking before using the ATM? Statistics are not kept on this, but we know alcohol can impair judgment and lessen the perception of danger. Third, fifteen percent of the victims are injured and the average loss is between $100 and $200 dollars. This is certainly not an amount of money to get injured for (if any is). Non-compliance with the robber is usually the cause of injury. This may involve attempts to gain PIN code information by the robber. Daily cash withdrawal limits can be effective in preventing excessive unauthorized withdrawals.

Here are some more ways to stay safe at an ATM.

First and foremost, trust yourself and your feelings. In over 25 years of police work, I can’t tell you how many victims reported to me that they, “felt funny about” a situation or thought someone was “suspicious”, but went ahead anyway. We like to call this hindsight and discount it. People (especially women) have a very accurate sense of danger, but don’t often trust it.
Be aware of your surroundings, especially between dusk and dawn. If you notice anything suspicious–a security light out, someone loitering nearby–consider coming back later or using a supermarket or convenience store ATM.
If using the ATM at night, take someone with you.
Withdraw enough cash for the night before you go out, especially if you think you may be drinking.
Park in a well-lit area as close as possible to the ATM.
At a drive-through ATM, be sure the doors are locked and the passenger windows are rolled up.
If you withdraw cash, put it away promptly; count it later, in private.
Put your ATM card and receipt away promptly; never leave
your receipt at the ATM.
Make sure your transactions have ended. Don’t forget that quite often the ATM will ask. “Do you want another transaction?” before ending access to your account.
Keep your PIN secret–don't write it down, and don't share
it with anyone you don't trust absolutely. Your PIN provides
access to your account.
Shield the keypad when entering your PIN to keep it from
being observed.
Avoid being too regular in your ATM use–don't repeatedly
visit the same machine at the same time, the same day of
the week.

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