Bengaluru just cannot bank on unmanned ATMs for safety

Kiosks without guard attract robbers, pose threat to lives of people; banks are not doing enough to ensure foolproof security for customers.

Published: 15th February 2018 06:40 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th February 2018 06:40 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

BENGALURU: More than 5 years after a woman employee was brutally attacked at an unmanned ATM kiosk in the city, banks and the city police are yet to learn any lessons from the incident. Crime at ATM kiosks continues to dog Bengaluru, making it unsafe for customers. In yet another incident on Tuesday, the weak security at such kiosks was exposed when Kamakshipalya police nabbed a person who was trying to rob money from an unmanned Axis bank ATM kiosk.

The incident involving Jyothi Uday brought the issue to the forefront prompting the police to issue strict instructions to banks to either man their ATMs or shut down. The then Police Commissioner Raghavendra H Auradkar had given a stern warning to banks to have a 24-hour guard, CCTV surveillance and an emergency button in every ATM. But as the matter faded from public memory, banks did little to ensure foolproof security at ATMs. Police sources say there are still more than 1,000 unmanned ATM kiosks in the city.

While there have been no physical attacks on customers since the Jyothi Uday incident, stealing of money or attempts to steal from unmanned ATM kiosks continue to occur frequently. Several instances of miscreants barging into ATM kiosks to rob money have been recorded in the past five years. Officials say that this issue is one of the most hotly debated during the Reserve Bank of India’s monthly meeting with stakeholders.

When contacted, City Police Commissioner T Suneel Kumar  told The New Indian Express that the issue would be brought to the notice of the RBI. “If the banks cannot maintain the ATMs by deploying security guards, let them close them down. We cannot compromise on the security aspect,” he added.

“As a police officer, I want all the ATMs to be manned. It is important to reduce the security threats which also should be financially viable for the banks,” said Additional Commissioner of Police (West) B K Singh.

But herein lies the problem. Banks have constantly maintained that manning each ATM would not be financially viable. This is in spite of these kiosks becoming targets for card skimmers and robbers. According to police, the latest trend was of skimmers (people who steal your card data by inserting a machine in the ATM card slot) succeeding in stealing card data. In 2017 November, the miscreants installed advanced skimming machine and tiny cameras inside ATMs which could capture data of debit/credit card users. In areas like Hennur and Whitefield, the police found out after a huge number of cards were skimmed. Whitefield DCP division also shut down more than 35 unguarded ATM kiosks in their limits. However, banks later complied with the rules for a while to re-open the kiosks.

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