Crime at Automated Tellers / Be Safety Conscious When Using a Teller Machine

By Donoghue, William | THE JOURNAL RECORD, March 24, 1988 | Go to article overview
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Crime at Automated Tellers / Be Safety Conscious When Using a Teller Machine


Donoghue, William, THE JOURNAL RECORD


Technology seems to bring out both the worst and the best in people. Computers have helped the handicapped learn to walk, but there are those who will always try to bend technology for their own ill-gotten gains. Bank automated teller machines, or ATMs, are a prime target.

Computers, the story goes, were sort of ``smart'' machines, and they could take the place of people in certain jobs. Like bank tellers. Who, the reasoning went, needed a human to count money? A computer-machine could do that, and do it cheaper than paying a teller's salary and providing benefits.

These same people, bankers by name, figured that eventually folks wouldn't need regular banks any more. We could do all our banking at a kiosk or in a shopping mall or even in the grocery store, using an automated teller machine. We'd get convenience, and the banks would save money.

So they installed the automated tellers, and they urged us to get our bank cards and PINs (personal identification numbers) and use them. They sponsored contests and gave us prizes for using their machines. And slowly, we did begin using them.

Last year, there were more than 3.5 billion automated teller machine transactions. Instead of lines at the teller windows, there are now lines in front of the teller machines.

But unfortunately, there are criminal types lurking around some of those machines, waiting for an unsuspecting victim. According to some pretty unreliable statistics, somewhere between 285 and 350 automated teller machine-related crimes occurred in the United States last year. I say unreliable because the lower number is what less than half the banks surveyed reported. And because the 350 number is drawn from assembled newspaper clippings.

In any case, there are enough crimes that we should all be concerned about them. Most teller machine crimes occur at walk-up tellers on bank premises, in business districts, shopping centers or residential areas - in that order. That means an automated teller installed in the wall of the bank, maybe outside, maybe in the entry way. Not in a secure kiosk where you always have to use your card to gain entry.

Furthermore, there is little security at these walk-up tellers. Most sites of crime had no security camera installed. Twenty-two percent had a transaction camera only, 8 percent had a surveillance camera, and only 12 percent had both. While the teller was in plain sight, quite often the lighting was poor - because the most crimes occurred between 7 p.m. and midnight, when it was dark.

What types of crimes occur? Well, the criminal is after the money, of course, but often the victim loses other personal property and/or is injured in the process.

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