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Banking on safety at the ATM

"I'll just stop by the ATM for some cash." You probably say those words frequently in a typical week. In fact, if you examine your monthly bank statement, you may be surprised at how often you make a trip to the automated teller machine. ATMs are one of the most convenient and welcome inventions of the modern world, keeping your money safe and accessible at the same time.

Nevertheless, as much as some Georgia banks profess to care about your financial security, they may not seem to feel the same way about your physical safety. Whether you use the same drive-through bank machine every time or travel to a variety of ATMs when you need cash, you may not realize the potential dangers of using an outdoor machine.

Who is responsible if you are a victim of crime?

If you are a frequent user of ATMs, you may grow complacent, especially if you use a bank machine because you are in a hurry or are unable to get to the bank during daylight hours. It is just such preoccupation that makes you an attractive target to would-be robbers. Safety advocates say that keeping alert and cautious when using an ATM may reduce the danger of a robbery or assault because many criminals follow certain patterns:

  • They prefer a bank customer who is alone.
  • They will sneak up behind you or beside you when you aren't looking.
  • They will approach at the moment when you are most distracted — when the machine dispenses your cash.
  • They are usually desperate enough to do anything to get your money.

On the other hand, all your caution may not protect you if the bank does not take its own safety measures. Robbers may seek out ATMs that offer the most opportunity for a successful robbery, for example:

  • Isolated machines allow robbers to work without fear of interruption.
  • Machines that are not visible from the street will not be seen by a random passerby.
  • ATMs surrounded by shrubs, obstructions or in a dark corner provide easy hiding places.
  • Lights and security cameras are basic elements of crime prevention.
  • Banks may hesitate to install panic alarms and emergency phones because they don't want to spend the money.

While some robbers admit that a well-lit ATM does not deter them, it may give you the advantage of being able to see a would-be robber and leave the area to use a different bank machine. Additionally, surveillance cameras are a powerful tool for investigators seeking to bring a criminal to justice.

Bank managers typically know when their ATMs are targets for robbers. They may have knowledge of robberies or attempted robberies in the past, or there may be obvious signs of vandalism on the bank machine. If bank managers refuse to take certain precautions to protect their customers, especially if the bank is located in a high crime area, the bank may hold some measure of responsibility if you are a victim of a crime while using their ATM.

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