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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.

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.