We take them for granted, these marvels of technology. Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) offer convenience to busy bank customers and greatly reduce transaction costs to banks. But, as is often the case, technology has its downside.


As the production and use of ATMs increases, so is the number of crimes occurring at ATM sites, according to Sheriff Mike Tregre. Published statistics for 1995 from the Public Affairs Division of Audits and Surveys Worldwide indicate that there were more than nine billion transactions at 102,000 ATM sites throughout the country. A Bank Administration Institute report further revealed that the most dangerous hours for ATM crimes are between 7:00 p.m. until midnight, when nearly forty-nine percent of ATM related crimes occurred.

Sheriff Tregre says that because ATMs have become such a part of our everyday lives, it is important that we understand the security risks and take measures to protect ourselves when using ATMs.

The Sheriff offers the following suggestions to make ATM banking transactions safe:

* Choose wisely: Use ATMs that are well lit and in well-lit locations. Whenever
possible, use 
ATMs in attended locations such as supermarkets.
* Stay alert: Use ATMs with convex mirrors so you can easily see the entire
facility when 
entering, as well as while banking. You can also see someone
approaching from behind.

* Beware and be aware: If there is anyone who looks suspicious (people at
phone booths, 
  loitering, bus stops, or in parked cars) find another ATM.
* Be prepared: Have your ATM card ready. Fill out deposit slips ahead of time.
The less time 
spent at an ATM, the better.
* Don’t go alone: Ninety-six percent of ATM crimes are committed when there is
only one 
person at an ATM.
* Lock-up: If using a drive-up ATM, keep doors locked and passenger windows

* Be rude: Do not hold the door open for anyone.
* Clean up: Put your cash and receipt away immediately.
* Remember: You can easily cancel a transaction at any time.

“Finally, it is important to remember that an ATM card is the same as cash, but is of little use without a Personal Identification Number (PIN) needed to activate the ATM. Safeguard your card as you would  your cash and memorize your PIN,” concluded Sheriff Tregre.