Protecting Your ATM

Why You Should Know About Protecting Your ATM

Protecting Your ATM

Customers know that protecting your ATM pin and the card are the most important things to know concerning their bank accounts and their money or investments. There are several scams that thieves devise to try and separate the customer from his money and the customer should always be on the lookout for anything that seems out of the ordinary or different from the norm.

Banks and ATM companies continually warn its customers to not ever give their PIN’s out to anyone. These financial institutions warn customers through mass mailings, over email and sometimes even offer tips and advice on things they can do to protect their ATM cards. Customers are also advised continuously that it’s not ever a good idea to write their PIN number down anywhere. Their advised as well to select a PIN that’s hard to decipher, one that’s not associated with anything that can easily be hiked. This includes associating it with things like an important birthdate, an anniversary date, an address or even using a consistent, traceable number that is used in other PIN numbers. For instance, some customers will often consistently use a number across the board for all of their PIN’s that they use for any important material. Therefore, if they use a number like 1234 with voice messages retrieval or for their post office box, they may also use that same number in establishing a PIN. Thieves will more than likely use that same method of thinking when they trying to determine what a PIN might be.

Protecting Your ATM – a customers pov

Customers should always be wary of any “helpful” strangers who want to help them if they experience any problems at an ATM station. These “Good Samaritans” are often a setup for customers, pretending to come to their aid while the customer is experiencing frustration with ATM problems. After the customer has entered their PIN several times, or the machine has taken the card, the customer gives up and says he’ll call the bank tomorrow. After the customer leaves, the thief retrieves the card, enters the PIN that he watched the customer enter and then takes cash out of the customer’s account. This is all done without the customer’s knowledge, and even with the customer’s assistance.

In addition to some of the tips that financial institutions give customers concerning their PIN’s and how to protect them, they also advise customers of some deceptive practices that thieves will try to use to gain access to their accounts. While the obvious signals are related to customers over and over, there are other types of scams and deceitful practices of which customers should also be aware.

In all circumstances, no matter in what condition, the customer should always shield the keypad when they’re entering their PIN’s into an ATM to protect it from anyone who may be looking. The person doesn’t necessarily need to be extremely close to the customer to see what they’re entering because the thief may also be able to tell just from watching where the person’s fingers are landing on the keypad. If the customer shield the keypad by cupping his hand over the area, any nosey onlookers would have difficulty in figuring out what numbers have been pressed.

While the vast majority of ATM business owners are honest businesspeople, there are always going to be a segment of that business population who deal unscrupulously. To that end, customers should always protect themselves by going with any instinctive feelings that may get when visiting an ATM business point. This means that if something is out of the ordinary regarding the machine, the customer should avoid using that machine and even contact the business owner for extreme cases. Customers should not use machines that instruct them to enter their PIN’s twice for no apparently good reason. This is a phishing scam that many thieves use to gain a customer’s PIN and access to their accounts.

Banks and ATM businesses warn customers that if something doesn’t look or feel right, it usually isn’t and it’s best to trust that feeling instead of ignoring it. Always contact the proper personnel in case of any errors or problems and always take measureable steps to protect your ATM and bank account from any potential issues.

ATM Machines, A Buyer’s Guide

ATM Machine Buyer’s Guide (Part 1) 

ATM Machine Buyers Guide image of CashOur hope is that this ATM Machine Buyer’s Guide helps you navigate some of the known pitfalls in the business. This will be a three part series. Be sure to click the next part in the series at the bottom of each post when you’re ready to proceed.

All kinds of businesses now maintain automatic teller machines, including supermarkets and  restaurants. That’s because ATM’s offer several benefits to business owners.

When you set up an ATM inside your establishment, you may see a spike in the number of your customers. And, with that source of money at hand, some of your customers may be inclined to spend more money. In addition, you might also find that you start receiving fewer checks which means less risk at the point of sale. Of course, you’ll also end up paying fewer processing fees for credit cards as well. But what things should you know before you go out and purchase one or more of these machines?

First, do some research and a few calculations before you contact an ATM vendor. Figure out, roughly, how many people come into your business on an average day. If that number is fewer than 150, and certainly if it’s fewer than 100, getting an ATM may not have an attractive ROI, however the other benefits may be what you’re looking for.  Just because you have minimal traffic in your location doesn’t mean your ATM won’t be worth the investment.

We’ve been in the ATM business for over 2 decades now and we’ve seen over the past few years that the general rule of thumb for the number of monthly transactions that your ATM will perform is relative to the the number of people that come into your establishment plus or minus a factor of 10% – 15% depending on the location, type of establishment and several other factors.

If for example you have a high end restaurant with table cloths and a bar, your ATM machine will perform much lower than these averages since this type of clientele typically pays with a credit card. If however you have a quick service restaurant, a bar and grill, local tavern, a nightclub or even a commercial building or parking lot we have seen these types of locations do very well, especially if the business does not accept credit cards. We have also seen customers convert from credit and debit cards to ATM usage with the implementation of coupons or other incentives for use.

One of the best ways to tell if buying an ATM for your location is right for you is to speak to your customers. Ask them if they’d be interested in using an ATM if you had one at your place, or if you often get requests or if customers ask where the nearest ATM machines is, that is a good indication that it would be a wise investment.  Obviously, if you get some positive feedback from your clients, you can advance to the next step: figuring out what kind of automatic teller machine to purchase.

Free Standing Hantle Tranax 1700W ATM MachineThe most common kind of ATM is the kind that stands up on its own, also known as a “free standing ATM”.  These free standing ATM machines require approx 3 sq ft in front of them for ADA compliance (about 36″ for a wheel chair). The machines themselves have a very small foot print and run anywhere from 14″ x 14″ up to 20″ x 20″ still relatively very little floor space for the return on investment.  Even with the diminutive size of the newest free standing ATM machines, if you don’t think you have enough room, you might opt for some of the newest tabletop or counter top models.
Alternatively, you may even consider purchasing an ATM that’s inserted into a wall (also known as a Thru-the-Wall “TTW” model), although this is often a great option for a place of business to plan for during tenant improvements, it is still fairly easy to cut a hole in a wall and retrofit it for a TTW ATM. While these thru-the-wall ATM machines costs a little more than the free standing machines, they are perfect for exterior installations such as sidewalk facing locations or locations facing a parking lot or a busy downtown location.

The Amazing Money MachineThese machines typically have much higher usage since they are exposed to walk by traffic 24 hours a day. If you are considering a TTW ATM, you’ll still need to consider space for the inside part of the ATM which is typically less than a free standing ATM since the ADA portion of the ATM is outside and usually unobstructed. While it is more expensive to install a TTW unit due to the additional construction costs you’ll also need to consider the timing of the install to minimize the noise and descriptiveness of the construction which can typically be completed in a weekend.

TTW ATM Machine GenmegaAnother choice is the outdoor ATM. (These ATM’s may also be inserted into a wall.) Outdoor ATM’s can be used 24 hours a day, and therefore they let you collect ATM fees 24 hours a day! This option, obviously, will save you interior space, too. A downside to an outdoor ATM however, is that depending on the location, your outdoor ATM may require proper lighting so people will feel safe using the ATM; and, depending on the area, you may consider some sort of surveillance cameras. Most outdoor ATM machines are weather protected but if you want the highest possible usage, you’d be smart to consider some kind of protection from the weather for the ATM users, again depending on the type of deployment and the weather in the area. While outdoor ATM’s can be more expensive to keep up, they typically have much higher usage and therefor justify the expense.

Keeping your motivation in mind, this ATM Machine Buyer’s guide is meant to help you not only decide if an ATM is right for you as a business, but is it right for the location where you’re going to put it, and, will your customers use it. If you’re main motivation is to offset credit card fees, almost certainly a free standing ATM will help with that. If you’re motivation is to make more money just from the ATM usage, a thru-the-wall  machine available 24 hours will product much more profit in the right installation.

Your ATM decision-making process doesn’t stop there. A list of other questions you need to answer would include: See ATM Machines, A Buyer’s Guide part 2.

Voice Activated ATMs and New ADA Requirements

Voice Activated ATMs and New ADA Requirements

Voice-activated automatic teller machines were designed to help people with visual impairments, including some elderly people, make financial transactions. Not every blind person can read Braille, and so ATM’s equipped with Braille keypads don’t always suffice. In addition, Braille keypads may allow blind people to enter the information they need to, but they don’t provide a means of delivering directions to visually-impaired customers. So unless a blind person were to walk into a bank already knowing exactly how to use the ATM, it might not be possible for him or her to make transactions without assistance from a bank employee. And waiting in line to ask an employee for help can be time-consuming, not to mention embarrassing. Indeed, in the past, some visually-impaired people tended to avoid ATM’s altogether.

However, a voice-activated ATM solves most, if not all, of those problems. Such a machine works like this:

  • A customer plugs his or her headphones into the ATM’s universal audio jack.
  • The ATM’s voice activation system is triggered.
  • The machine begins to speak to the customer, giving instructions, telling him or her which keys need to be pressed in order to complete a certain transaction.
  • The automated voice may also explain how to use the ATM’s Braille keypad, in case that customer does know how to read Braille.

Voice-activated ATM’s are not new. Banks large and small began rolling out this technology early in the first decade of the twenty-first century. For example, all new ATM’s purchased by Australian banks since 2003 have been voice-activated; banks in that nation began installing voice-activated ATM’s as part of a pilot program in 2002. Also in 2002, Banknorth, a small American chain of banks with headquarters in Portland, Maine, began to install voice-activated ATM’s in 400 of its banks, a program that was completed in cooperation with the National Federation of the Blind. In the end, Banknorth – now TDB Banknorth – spent five years and almost five million dollars to get these machines operational.

TDB Banknorth and others may have voluntarily set up voice-activated ATM’s, but today doing so is no longer optional for financial institutions in the United States; it’s mandatory. That’s because, between 2004 and 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice handed down a series of rulings on the issue of voice-activated ATM’s. The result of these decisions was that, as a new stipulation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, all banks, credit unions and other financial institutions were required to install at least one voice-activated ATM in every location where they maintained ATM’s. The deadline for these installations was set at April 30, 2012 – the deadline had originally been March 15 of that year, but was extended to give banks enough time to purchase and install these devices. (These rulings came with other requirements for ATM’s as well, including guaranteed wheelchair access.)

It’s interesting to note that the estimated cost of a single voice-activated ATM can vary widely, depending on whether you ask a financial institution or you ask an advocacy group for the visually-impaired, such as the aforementioned National Federation for the Blind. But it’s somewhere between $1,000 and $10,000. Still, whatever the cost may be, most banks found it more economical to purchase entirely new machines rather than update old ATM’s with new software and processing capabilities.

Financial institutions which are not in compliance with the ADA’s voice-activated ATM standards risk lawsuits and other disciplinary measures. Still, in many parts of the country, some banks have yet to fully comply with the new law. In 2012, for instance, a visually-impaired, 30-year-old man name Robert Jahoda filed federal lawsuits against several banks in his home state of Pennsylvania, as well as a bank in Ohio, because they had not yet equipped their facilities with voice-activated ATM’s. Further, a Boston-based consumer protection website called Consumer World conducted a study one month after the voice-activated ATM law’s April 2012 deadline. Consumer World’s researchers traveled around Boston, plugging headphones into random samplings of ATMs all over the city. And the results of this survey were not too impressive: at least a quarter of the automatic teller machines that these researchers tried out did not have a voice activation capacity.

Is the ATM Business a Bad Idea?

Is the ATM Business a Bad Idea?

Aspiring entrepreneurs who are looking to “get-rich-quick” always turn to ideas where they think they can put in the minimal amount of work, yet yield the maximum (and sometimes most ludicrous sounding) amount of money in a short amount of time. Sadly, they’re also the ones who are more likely to buy or invest in anything that “sounds” good without really researching and fully investigating the idea.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with buying or starting new businesses with the sole goal of making lots of money. But what IS wrong is when the idea of making large amount of money overshadows the amount of initial work and commitment that it will really take before any budding new business takes off the ground.

The ATM business is a very good entrepreneurial endeavor and does yield a lot of revenue for ATM owners. However, going into business as an ATM entrepreneur is just not right for some people and their mode of thinking, and can quickly turn into the worst thing they’ve ever done.

No Money

As an aspiring ATM entrepreneur, if you don’t have any reserved money to invest into this business, then it may be a bad idea for you. Although getting into the business only requires a nominal amount of money, you do have to and need to be prepared to spend something to get the business set up. This is not a cookie-cutter business or a “business-in-a-box” and you will see that you’re going to need to treat the investment as a serious endeavor and be prepared to spend a few thousand dollars. Whether you obtain a small business loan or borrow the money, you will need to have something to get started.

No Business Plan

If you don’t have a plan of action or a comprehensive business plan, it’s not a good idea to go full force into this business. However, without a business plan, it WILL be difficult for you to be successful in this business. Too often, new entrepreneurs think they can perhaps install a few ATM’s at random locations and just rake in the cash without planning or forecasting. A solid business plan will help guide you through setting up the business, establishing contacts, understanding and signing legal contracts, planning for business changes, including profitable times and when there’s a loss of revenue due to unforeseen circumstances. A good business plan will also guide you on how to effectively market your ATM business and even what type(s) of software products you’ll need to have for your ATM’s, depending on their locations.

No Legal Agreements

Speaking of legal issues, contracts that are properly signed and worded are of the utmost importance for this kind of business. Verbal agreements are certainly great to have, but in the ATM business, you need to have comprehensive agreement contracts that cover each area and responsibility of the business as well as ensuring that you are covered as a businessperson.

No Mentor

With those legal issues, marketing issues, finding good ATM locations and even locating ATM investors for your business can best be covered with the help of a business mentor. This would, of course, preferably be someone who has or is currently in the ATM business world. They can help guide you and offer suggestions on your ATM business journey. However, if you are planning to simply dive into the business without any mentoring or guidance, you may be taking on much more than you can handle. Yes, you can certainly have success without a mentor, but you’ll have that success much sooner and without as many hiccups if you secure a mentor to help you along the way.

So, Is the ATM Business a Bad Idea?

With the aid of a good mentor, solid business information and an acute awareness of what you can expect out of the ATM business, you certainly can find great success and form a profitable business. Regardless of the length of time it may take, which can be shorter or longer for each person, your goal should be to build a solid, profitable, sustaining ATM business that will reap monetary rewards and personal satisfaction.

ATM and Personal Security

 The Importants of ATM and Personal Security

ATM and Personal Security

Automatic teller machines are cash dispensers and are a wonderful convenience item for those individuals who are busy with traveling or other life responsibilities and need access to cash in a hurry. But while they certainly can and do make life a little easier, they can also give pause to daily activities when using an ATM because there are other things other than fast cash that a person should consider for their own safety and personal security.

It is a common understanding in general that everyone needs to be careful for their safety when they’re using an ATM, but there are also some nuances that the person should be aware of as well. It’s important to be aware of small details regarding personal safety and security, but it’s also just as important to take the necessary steps that are required in order to protect a person’s physical body and his money. Here are a few tips in general of which it’s important to stay aware, but the tips will also list a few detailed tidbits of information in addition to the suggested item:

1. Avoid using any ATM if you are alone. Having someone to accompany you gives you more of a sense of security, and lessens the likelihood of someone approaching you that may have ill intentions. This also applies to if it’s day or night as well. It’s highly suggested to either take someone with you or choose to use the ATM when there is heavy foot traffic around the ATM.

2. Do not use ATM’s after dark, if possible. This is not a wise choice for either male or female, and the individual should make sure that they are not using any ATM that’s in a dark or poorly lit area. Also, avoid ATM’s that are flanked by walls, high bushes or even areas where there is none to little foot traffic. The more traffic there is around the area, the less likely there is for something to happen or someone to approach you. This also applies to using drive through ATM’s as well, although it may seem or appear to be a safe thing to do.

3. Examine your surroundings whenever you go to an ATM. Do this as you’re driving up to the machine in your car, walking up to the machine or even while you’re spotting the machine and are about to go up to it. Notice who’s around the area and whether or not they look like they “fit” in or if they’re standing idly by. If there are suspicious people or behavior going on around the ATM, do not use the machine and notify the authorities if the actions look like potential criminal activity may be going on.

4. Already have your card out and information ready to make the transaction once you approach the ATM unit. You don’t want to be looking and searching for anything once you’ve reached the ATM unit, and you certainly don’t want to be distracted just before you use the machine. Potential thieves can spot easy prey when they see a customer fumbling for their wallets or change purses, looking for their cards.

5. Protect your ATM card pin number, and also shield that PIN number while you’re making the transaction. This further ensures that no one can “phish” your information or gain access to your ATM account.

For the most part, ATM’s are very safe and secure to use, although nothing is guaranteed. However, it’s best to have in place as much safety and security plans in order to ensure your personal security. To ensure this, stay diligent and aware of your surroundings at all times, as well as security possibilities that may not, but can, occur.