Tips: Safely Using An ATM

The more than 420,000 automated teller machines (ATMs) in the U.S. and Canada provide a tremendous convenience to consumers, allowing them to withdraw cash anytime of the day or night.

But they can also attract robbers looking for easy prey.

According to figures from the Department of Justice, losses from an ATM robbery average between $100 and $200. Also, about 15 percent of victims are injured during the robbery.

Hank Monaco, vice president for ADT Security Services, which helps to protect half of the country's top 50 national and regional bank holding companies, said it is possible to significantly reduce your chances of becoming a victim.

"Anytime cash is readily available, you will find criminals looking to take advantage - ATMs are no exception," Monaco said. "But by being aware and using common sense you should be able to conduct your business safely."

According to one ATM service organization, the majority of Americans between the ages of 25 to 49 use an ATM an average of eight times a month. Monaco offered these safety tips for customers who use ATMs.

  • Pay close attention to your surroundings. Make sure the area around the ATM is well lit and not hidden from the road by landscaping, decorative partitions or buildings. If anyone looks suspicious in the area, use an ATM at another location or come back later.
  • When possible, use ATMs during the daytime. Most ATM robberies occur at night, with the highest risk between midnight and 4 a.m.
  • If possible, take a friend with you to the ATM or use it when there are other customers in the area. Most robberies are committed against a single victim by a lone robber.
  • If while using an ATM you feel a person behind you in line is too close, ask him or her to step back. If he or she does not, cancel your transaction and come back later.
  • Limit your time at the ATM. Fill out transaction paperwork in your car and have your ATM card and other documents ready as you approach the ATM.
  • Do not withdraw large amounts of cash. After making a withdrawal, immediately put it into your wallet or purse before leaving the ATM.
  • When using a drive-up ATM, keep your car engine running, the doors locked and all windows up except for the one you are using. Leave enough room to maneuver between your car and the one ahead in the line.

If, despite following these tips, you are still confronted by a robber, Monaco said you should comply.

"Security experts emphasize that you should never fight with the robber," he said. "Note the robber's description as you give him the money. Then get away as soon as it is safe and call the police."

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