Automated Teller Machines (ATMs)


    ATMs are everywhere. We live in a 24-hour society. They are a convenient way to get cash or conduct limited bank transactions when banks are closed. But everything good is corruptible.

    There are numerous types of ATMs set in a variety of environments. Therefore there is no single strategy for all ATMs.

    The goal of the thief is to get your cash. So you could be either robbed or scammed out of your money. Sometimes scams wonít be realized until much later. This it not to say that a thief wonít change tactics and rob you if the scam starts to fail.


General Considerations 

    Always be alert to your surroundings when out and about.

    Always trust your instincts. If you feel that something isnít right then leave the area immediately. Donít hesitate to use another ATM.


ATM Selection

    Prior to approaching an ATM consider the surroundings.

    Has anyone followed you to the ATM? If you think so then walk away. Walk into a nearby store or any place where there are people.Call police if you think you are still in danger. 

    Avoid an ATM if anyone is milling about (on foot or in a car) who appears suspicious.

    What natural interior and exterior surveillance is present? If you were conducting a transaction would you be able to see approaching persons? Would a passerby be able to see you inside?  ATMs with visibility barriers should be avoided.

    Is the lighting sufficient? Avoid darkened ATMs. This includes the area around the ATM.

    Aside from a drive up ATM enclosed vestibules with locking doors offer more security than open ATMs. Make sure the door lock works.

    If using the drive up ATM make sure your doors are locked and windows are up.

    Are there signs indicating video surveillance? Is there an emergency phone or panic button inside the vestibule?

    Sometimes it helps to think like the bad guy. What areas of vulnerability can you find? Are there any ambush points? 


Conducting The Transaction

    Make a plan prior to approaching the ATM. Make sure you have already decided what transaction you will be doing. Have a supply of deposit envelopes. If you are making a deposit fill the envelope out beforehand. This will minimize your time at the ATM.

    If you are in a car try to park as close to the ATM as possible.

    If you notice that the ATM machine is altered in any way donít use it. Make a report to the bank. If the machine takes your card examine the card slot for signs of tampering. Be wary of anyone suddenly arriving to ďhelp youĒ. Leave and report the card as lost immediately. Never allow a stranger to ďhelpĒ conduct your transaction. Report suspicious activity to police immediately.

    Block the keypad from view while typing in your PIN. In some ATM scams the bad guys will tamper the machine to capture your card or the data on the card. Then they will view your PIN from a remote location or from a hidden camera. After you leave in frustration the bad guys retrieve your card or the data and clean you out! This activity is known as ďskimmingĒ. Thieves attach a device that captures the data from your ATM cardís magnetic stripe. All they need is your PIN to steal your money.

    The University Of Texas At Austin Police Department has an excellent article regarding this type of activity. Check out the link


Concluding the Transaction

    Once you are done leave the ATM. Donít delay your exit by counting your money. Put your cash and receipt away. Always take your receipt. You can double-check your transaction later in a safe environment.

    As you leave be aware of your surroundings. Also be alert to anyone appearing to follow you. If you suspect someone is following you get to a populated area. If you are in a car then drive to the local police station. If you are on foot step into a store or some other place where there are other people.


Things to Consider

    Try to plan ahead. If you know you will need cash try to get it ahead of time. This idea is what crime prevention is all about. Donít make a regular pattern of ATM use. Someone could be sizing you up for a robbery. 

    Typically an ATM inside a bank during business hours is much more safer than at an ATM kiosk in an empty parking lot at midnight. Additionally a thief who tries to tamper an ATM that is inside or connected to an institution (like a bank or mall) is less more likely to be seen and thus less likely to succeed. 

    Memorize your PIN. If you must write it down on paper then donít carry it with you. Safeguard this information. Never give out your PIN. Donít use something obvious like your date of birth.

    Donít hesitate to choose another ATM if you donít feel comfortable. Donít ignore the warning signs. Fear is a natural response to perceived threats. Use that fear to protect you. This information should not discourage the use of ATMs. Some ATMs can be relatively safe at one point but later becomes unsafe. Also donít hesitate to point out any unsafe conditions to the institution in charge of that particular ATM.

    Even if you take every precaution there is no guarantee you will not become a victim. Obviously if you are confronted and robbed donít resist. Your personal safety is the number one priority!


For more crime prevention information contact:

Officer Dave Hines at 781-595-2000 X- 4353


(Voice Mail)  781-477-7861.