Staying Safe at the ATM

Using an ATM is an important part of our daily lives, but it is important to be safe when using one, especially at night or in a dangerous area.
| Sunday, February 20, 2011
Going to an ATM to withdraw cash is a very common and frequent event in daily American life. While banks and the security companies they work with, as well as ATM manufacturers try to do everything they can to make sure people are safe when withdrawing money, it is very important that people who use ATMs are aware of their role in their own safety when making withdrawals.

1. Use an ATM in a Busy, Well-Lit Area

Using an ATM located in a busy shopping center or plaza is safer than using one where there are few, if any, people nearby. While this may seem counterintuitive, this ensures that there are people close who could help or call for assistance if there is a problem. Also be aware of landscaping or architectural fixtures that can hide possible heisters; stay away from ATMs with lots of high walls, shrubbery, or tall trees. Make sure there is a good deal of light if using the ATM at night; darkness is the best concealer, so stay in the light.

2.Take a Friend

It is most advisable to use an ATM only during daylight hours, as nightfall can hide criminals and make it difficult for ATM customers to be fully aware of their surroundings. For users who must use an ATM at night, take a friend along to keep an eye out for lurkers and remember to try and find the best-lit, busiest area to make a withdrawal, even if it means traveling across town to do it.

3. Be Prepared

When making an ATM withdrawal, whether day or night, always be prepared and execute the transaction as quickly and fluidly as possible. Make sure the ATM card is out and ready before approaching the machine, have the PIN number or access code memorized, and know how to operate the machine efficiently. Fumbling with cards, keys, and cell phones on the way to an ATM and not being aware of their surroundings is one of the biggest mistakes customers make; not knowing about the individuals in the area, taking too long at the machine, or being otherwise distracted gives criminals the perfect opening to rob unsuspecting customers either to and from their car or at the machine.

4.Be Aware

Upon arriving at the ATM customers should scan the area and make note of all individuals, not just "suspicious" ones. Is there a line at the machine? If so, staying in the car until it goes down is a safer bet than standing in the line; is there an individual standing too close to the machine? Is there a group of people seemingly loitering at a parking lot in the area? If so, find another machine to use. When processing the ATM transaction, look around; are there individuals nearby? Be aware of individuals behind in the line "shoulder surfing" for card information. These are people who stand too close behind and look over the shoulder of the person in front of them, copying or memorizing the person’s card information for later use.

Safety and security at the ATM is important. Since the machine’s inception criminals have been working on ways of robbing not only the machines, but the people who visit them as well. Be responsible for personal protection is one of the best ways to be safe at the ATM.

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