7 steps to protect your life and limb at an ATM


K. JAVEED NAYEEM writes: The recent attack on a lady ATM user in Bangalore was a most heinous crime that sent shock waves across our society because of the impact of the live visuals which everyone saw on television.

Thankfully, the lady’s life does not seem to be in danger although she is likely to take a long time to get over the trauma of the very brutal assault, both physically and mentally. Her helplessness and vulnerability seem to have galvanised our government into some action.

But the news that the home minister has ordered all ATMs in the State to be manned by armed guards within three days seemed like a rather tall order to me. Knowing the government’s propensity to always bite off more than it can actually chew I was not very surprised.

In fact, I was expecting an order just like this going by the very predictable knee-jerk responses we see from the administrative machinery always and only after a disturbing incident.

That is why two buses had to burn and kill more than 50 helpless passengers in less than two weeks before we realised that the rather cosmetic emergency exits are no good in a real emergency. Now arrangements are being made to render our buses much safer and their operations perhaps a little saner.

Arranging armed guards for the thousands of ATMs in the State is an impossible task even in three months let alone in three days, unless our Police force itself takes over the responsibility which again is an impossibility. Armed guards do not come cheap even by the dozen and I do not think anyone can mobilise so many arms and trained men to handle them at short notice.

Although many banks these days have their own weapons and trained personnel to wield them, most of the armed security guards we see around banks, ATMs and in currency transporting vans are ex-servicemen with their own licenced weapons who make a living in their retirement.

They take up this vocation as it matches the kind of work they are used to and because of their excellent training and background, arms licences are issued to them a little liberally than to other ordinary people. So after having realised its mistake in just one day the government has diluted its own orders to posting only guards minus the arms.

Even such guards cannot be procured in a hurry and therefore if the present recommendations of the government are implemented both in letter and spirit we will see many ATMs being shut down by night or even by day for want of guards. And, the situation is likely to remain so till enough guards are recruited and deployed which will understandably take much time.

The new arrangement will now mean having a man, able-bodied or otherwise, near every ATM in attire that looks like a uniform. Still, this is better than nothing as it means having someone there who if successfully and sufficiently woken up from his sleep before one enters the ATM can at least keep a watch over the movements of any suspicious looking characters hovering in the vicinity.

Although our ATMs have many defects from the security point of view, providing adequate security alone is not the complete answer to the problems one faces at them.

People who use them too should exercise some caution based on common sense to ensure their own safety.

I see many people walking into secluded ATMs in pitch dark surroundings at unearthly hours with mobile phones glued to their ears and drawing money without the slightest attention to their own safety. Let alone a lady, even the burliest of men can be rendered completely helpless by just two hoodlums when he is completely immersed in his phone conversation and the ATM operation.

Just because cash is available round-the-clock at ATMs one should not visit them at very odd times unless it is an unforeseen emergency.

If we know that we need cash on a particular day the visit to the ATM can be planned during much safer hours.

When there is a choice, people should try to visit ATMs at busy places like Railway Stations and bus stands if there is urgent need for cash late in the night or early in the morning even if it means a slightly longer drive from home. And at these times it is always better if two or more individuals make the trip so that someone can keep a watch outside while one draws the cash.

Visitors to ATMs in cars should lock their vehicles while they draw cash to ensure that someone does not creep into the rear seat and spring a surprise on them later.

All ATMs should mandatorily have high resolution CCTV surveillance both inside and outside to ensure that the identity of the users is clearly recorded for identification later if necessary.

The shutters of all ATMs should have an arrangement by which they can be locked in the open position allowing them to be closed only by authorised personnel. This can be done by just welding a shackle to the beam above and therefore it should be the first safety measure to be implemented.

The positioning of the machine itself is faulty in most of the kiosks as the user has to operate it without being able to watch the entrance even with his or her peripheral vision. If they are placed sideways they become much safer.

Otherwise a large mirror if installed on the rear wall will ensure this without any major alterations to existing ATMs. A very loud alarm that can attract the attention of passersby, with its button prominently and conveniently placed next to the screen will be an added advantage.

Closing down ATMs for want of guards will only be a retrograde move as it defeats the very purpose of having them and this proposal needs a rethink from a practical point of view. Until we have much safer ATMs, people should be educated to use them with adequate care and caution to ensure their own safety while enjoying the convenience they offer.

(K. Javeed Nayeem is a practising physician who writes a weekly column in Star of Mysore, where this piece originally appeared)

Photograph: courtesy IBN

Also read: When an ATM stands for anything but money

The ATM generation that is banking Anna Hazare

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20 Responses to “7 steps to protect your life and limb at an ATM”

  1. Nastika Says:

    Well, the resident Churumuri doctor is now the veteran on the ATM in India !!

    Before commenting, I would wait for the police investigation to complete on this attack. I would be surprised in the victim didn’t know the attacker.


  2. tuLuva Says:

    Everyone is talking about arranging guards and security to the ATMs. those can only serve as a short term solutions. I see these incidents as a clear failure of law and order of the state. why it has become so easy to commit crime and get away with that? High time we fix our law and order situations, karnataka is turning UP and bihar at a very fast pace.

  3. Doddi Buddi Says:

    An excellent compendium of practical tips on how to use an ATM safely in India by Dr. Nayeem. I too follow the same methods he has outlined. Also watch out for a team of con artists who may try to walk too close to you or draw your attention to some fallen object. After distracting your attention they will rob you. This ruse is very common and it is widely reported.

  4. Eddie Says:

    This blog is getting real very interesting for some one like me who lives in West. I never thought going to my nearest ATM and drawing money could be a life-threatening exercise!

    I am puzzled about the link between a doctor-a physician and ATMs which are not humans! May be there is some link, and some one like me who is born with a minimal brain cell count cannot crack this relationship.

    Come to think of it, this could be turned into Dollar-spinning tourist attraction. In a mockup scene, the police take a posse of tourists from the West to descend on an ATM where machete -wielding thugs ( actors) are threatening a poor victim-a real doctor who came to stress-test this ATM!

  5. Anonymous Guy Says:

    Good for credit card companies. There will be more incentive now for people to use their debit/credit cards wherever possible.

    Another common thread in many crimes in Bangalore is that the people who commit it run away to their home towns in some other part of India. The anonymity in another place and the ease of getaway must be attractive to would-be-criminals.
    Thank the mindless freedom of movement for this.

    @Eddie, What is your problem if a doctor writes about ATMs? Cant he have any other interest in life besides work? BTW Which fantasy tour operator do you use?

  6. Sanjeeva Says:

    Eddie’s brain must be little muddy!
    Javeed sahab, don’t term it as heinous crime. Otherwise, human rights people will pounce upon you.

  7. DHL Says:

    The solution to all New Age problems ” Sankata Bandhare Venkataramana”. All these New-age Yuppies claim ” I am a citizen of the World, I dont belong to any one Country”. Might be True as of now, When the “Accounts Deliverables” exceeds ” Accounts Recievables”, its only “Sankata” and “Ventakaramana”.

  8. Goldstar Says:

    Another big problem is that there are TOO MANY ATMs. Banks, especially public sector banks trying to achieve their targets, open ATMs unnecessarily. In BTM Layout where I live, there are places where 5-6 ATMs are there in a radius of 50 metres !! I hardly see customers in ATMs from banks like “Bank of Maharashtra” or “Punjab National Bank”. Yet they are forced to open ATMs to fulfill their targets.

    These banks should consolidate and open “White-label” ATM booths with 3-4 machines inside. This will make ensuring physical safety easier.

  9. nilesh Says:

    simpler solution is a cluster of atms with two guards

  10. madhusudhan B S Says:

    keeping a mirror inside a ATM is not good idea , because people will spend long hours in front of machine , doing all the make ups. but they can keep a convex or concave mirror , in that mirror our face reflects uglier

  11. Vinay Says:

    Anonymous Guy:

    What mindless “freedom of movement”? So what do you suggest? Make Bangalore a jail with barbed wire all around? And have a moat with crocodiles swimming in it?

  12. Eddie Says:

    @Anonymous guy “BTW Which fantasy tour operator do you use?”

    Why can’t you be that operator, given your worldly wisdom of doctors having time to be interested in ATM!?

  13. Maaysa Says:

    In Europe, ATMs are like public telephone booths, in open space on the side of the pavements, in the middle of a mall etc..

    Nice and simple!

  14. Blue Dart Says:

    Channel surfing which I do while eating food, I happen to see a clip of a Kannada Movie called ” Shani Mahathme”; In some particular village protected by Shani Deva, all Home Doors are open all the time day/night; Huge Rocks of Gold lie on the floor unsecured. The Lady quotes “We are protected by Shani Deva; See all this Gold lying here; Shani punishes anybody stealing in this Village.

  15. Nastika Says:

    You don’t need to go to Europe to see such ATMs – there are right here in Bangalore itself; Citibank ATMs in Brigade Road, Total Mall, Axis bank ATMs in few malls.

    Unfortunately, the user to withdraw cash in open air. So the banks provide an enclosure with split AC unit & a security guard. After all the banks have saved huge by providing an ATM instead of a branch.


  16. D.V. Raghavan Says:

    Posting a guard is not a solution. Instead of one victim, there may be two with guard too. ATM in residential areas should be discouraged. They are mostly situated in isolated areas. A bright
    light in and around ATM is necessary. Glass door with electronic latch will prevent criminals to enter into ATM. CCTV is useful for recording but will not prevent crime. Peolple by and large should go to ATM not along but with company of friends or relatives.

    D.V. Raghavan

  17. Prof. Shastri Says:

    Statistics show there’s plenty of room for automated teller machines to grow. The total ATM cards issued in India are estimated to grow at a 4-year CAGR of 22.7% to reach 672.9 million in 2015, according to the AM Mindpower Solutions report.

    Though maintenance is an issue everywhere and not just in isolated or in rural areas, big city outskirts..etc, the highly profitable banks seem to be more than willing to immediately pick-up the tab for greater coverage at any cost.

    Bank ATMs are on the cusp of a blistering pace of growth in any growing country…if not by economy definitely by population! Going by one estimate, these are set to triple over the next three years in India.


    Globally Banks want to be less transactional, more conversational; sadly, in poor, rural and middle class India it is exactly the opposite!

    It has been proven that a full-function single ATM machine can replace a bank branch, even with a skeleton staff by a shocking percentage. That is primarily because of massive transaction volumes, no manpower charges, no overheads, labour issues or expensive liabilities aside to all the other obvious manpower-related factors.

    Under the last 10 years of the most corrupt UPA and insensitive Cong-I led Govt, both Indian and Foreign banks have been placing PO’s to various foreign firms for ATM systems under the Automation Domain without any control/supervision and more importantly, absolutely no foresight!

    “Very soon, we will see a lot of rural ATMs and low-cost ATM deployments. We are also into bunch note acceptors or cash deposit machines. These cash depositors will serve the purpose of ATMs and will allow real-time cash deposit solutions. Security around the ATM or premises is not our responsibility, and the next step will be to deploy other advanced ATM machines,” is quote from a branch manager of Hitachi in India. The spineless RBI has reluctantly emailed final guidelines for white-label ATMs. As per the new norms, third party service providers will have to open a bulk of the ATM network in semi-urban and rural areas. No clear responsibilities on security aspects. As anything else in the a UPA-controlled India, guidelines have no milestones, roadmaps or at least a launch date!

    Well, both the state and central Govts, coincidently led by so-called socialist and honest politicians has been conveniently quiet!

    The Blr police have woken-up rather late and now insist all state-run and private banks to deploy 24-hour security guards at their ATMs in the city, with functioning closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras inside (not dummies or substandard quality, cheap cameras) and outside kiosks and a ‘functioning’ burglary alarm.

    While the statement from the Blr Police about 100s of ATM being closed down is politically motivated to calm public anger, you can be sure that there are many ATM kiosks in private buildings and commercial complexes across the city without any security, except for the whole complex.

    A police employee told me yesterday evening that “our colleagues on the rounds have noticed many ATMs mushrooming even in new residential layouts and the city’s dark, isolated outskirts without even a basic security system in place”. But she added, her colleagues priority was the daily hafta and roll-call! As for the banks a full-tight old monk Rum-fuelled retired and dummy guard for the night is any day better than an expensive staff and threatening union…etc.

    Meanwhile, while the Govt-run Corporation Bank has been blowing hundreds of crores on advertising its self-serve services nationwide, every month, the police have revealed that he particular ATM machine (in the heart of Blr) was out of order for over a week and regular customers had stopped entering it! Strangely the same bank has had multiple awards for customer service.

    As of now, it has been confirmed that the assailant had sold the victim’s mobile handset to a greedy mobile shop owner at Hindupur in Ananthapur district of Andhra Pradesh, for just Rs 500. Apparently the owner was known to the assailant who has murdered a woman just a week earlier for a debit cards and mere Rs 3000! BTW, you can imagine how many more crime handsets waiting to be sold in such mobile handset shops.

    One of the eight special teams, set up to investigate the horrifying incident, is also on the lookout for another person who may have remained outside the state-run Corporation Bank ATM while the assailant was inside the kiosk attacking the victim.

    What’s really disturbing is the facts that are getting revealed, selectively.

    The attack on Jyothi Udaya had now led to a confrontation between law-enforcing and banking authorities in the public’s mind. Fact is that the Ministers, MLA’s, BBMP babu’s and Bangalore City police are busy collecting additional bribes from every bank manager who can’t afford to shut down the cash-vending kiosks!

  18. Ranjit Says:

    Easisest solution is to have ATMs on the street and no kiosk. In full public view with CCTV cameras. This is commonplace in Europe.


  19. the colonel Says:

    “As for the banks a full-tight old monk Rum-fuelled retired and dummy guard for the night is any day better than an expensive staff and threatening union…etc.”

    and you are a Prof????????????????????

  20. Doddi Buddi Says:

    Colonel, may be you should remind the good professor that Wikipedia and the Internet can replace him too!

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