In a random survey conducted across the tricity to check if basic security measures for ATMs (automated teller machines) are being followed, the HT team found most of ATM booths without guards, some had guards but they were without weapons.
Residents across the tricity feel that it should be the joint responsibility of police and bank officials to provide safety at the ATMs.
The city alone has 583 ATMs, including those of foreign banks, public and private-sector banks. In all, there are 357 ATMs of nationalised banks, 217 of private-sector banks and nine of foreign banks.
A survey across the city including Sectors 17, 19, 23, 33, 35, 37, 38, 39 and 50 suggests that most of these ATMs are without security guards and even those that have guards are without any weapon.
It was also witnessed that many people ignored the basic rules of not talking on phone while in the ATM booth or not entering if a person is already in the koisk.
The guards could be seen causally moving around, not objecting to the acts of those entering the ATM kiosks. ATM booths set up in the secluded areas in northern sectors are the worst hit as residents complain that after the shops in the area close down, it becomes quite difficult to visit the ATM.
There are many ATM booths whose doors are jammed and in no way one can lock the doors from inside while making a transaction. The guards on duty informed that though they have training to act in case of fire or short circuit, haven't been trained to tackle if a miscreant tries to enter and rob the customer or the ATM.
“We have not been given any training as such. If a situation comes up where the ATM is attacked, the guard's life will be in danger before anyone else and we can't do anything about it,” said a guard on duty outside an ATM booth in Sector 37.
The state of the ATMs in SAS Nagar is even worse as in Phase 10, only three out of seven ATMs; and in Phase 9, three out of six ATMs were manned. These ATMs are located in the heart of the city markets which at night become very vulnerable spots.
In a startling fact that came to light, in almost all ATMs in these areas the security doors were not operational, posing a big threat to the users. In most of the cases even after the deployment of guards outside ATM booths, they tend to neglect their duties.
“The IDBI ATM in Phase 10 is a case of sheer negligence by the bank authorities as most of the time it is out of service and the security guard deployed here is generally roaming around in the nearby area rather than guarding the ATM,” said Harjinder Singh of Hanspal Electricals.
Installing security cameras is the only safety measure followed by many of these banks in the town, but their functioning remains a doubt. Some banks have even neglected this norm and not yet installed a camera on the premises of their ATMs.
A security guard said, “Sometimes a bank deploys only one person to look after different ATMs at the same time.”
Though no such cases of theft or robbery from ATMs have been reported in these areas, the negligence of security measures have left the nearby residents unsafe.
The result of surveying ATM booths in Panchkula HT was alarming. Majority of the ATMs were not manned by security guards and no other substantial step had been taken by the banks to ensure customer security.
In Sector 6, two ATM booths didn't have security guards. They did have an entry system that involved entry by swiping of cards, but the system was not working in both ATMs.
In the nine ATMs in Sector 8, only three had guards. Many banks didn't have guards but they had the security camera facility. Some other banks had armed guards, just an inattentive person sitting outside the ATM booth to mask as a guard.
The Sector 9 fared a bit better with five out of eight ATMs having guards and camera facility. Banks such as HDFC Bank and Punjab National Bank did not have guards, but only CCTV facility.
Sector 11 had a staggering number of 16 ATMs with eight of them being unmanned. Sector 14 showed a similar picture with none of its four ATM booths having a security guard.
The highly populous areas of Panchkula such as Sectors 20 and 21 also didn't show a better picture. In the 17 ATMs in this area, nine didn't have security guards; while many had the feature of swiping cards for entry, the system wasn't working in any bank.
No rules for setting up ATMs
There are no specific rules that are to be followed by the banks before opening an ATM. It is the banks' prerogative to look for a site, which is viable and will get business for them, following which they take the place at rent and install an ATM. No permission from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) or any other authority has to be taken by the bank before setting up an ATM. Those from the banking industry say that as far as deploying guards is concerned, it is just an advisory by the RBI and not mandatory.
Cases of crime in ATMs
July 2013: Unidentified miscreants made an unsuccessful attempt to break an ATM of Syndicate Bank located at Sector 17 in Chandigarh
May 2013: Police arrested a person for making an unsuccessful attempt to break the ATM of Maharashtra Bank located at Ramdardar
July 2012: Unidentified miscreants made an unsuccessful attempt to break the ATM of State Bank of Patiala located at Sarangpur
May 2012: A couple and two girls were arrested for making an unsuccessful attempt to break open an ATM of Axis Bank at Behlana.
Oct 2013: An attempt was made to rob the ATM of ICICI Bank at Mansa Devi Complex in Panchkula. However, the bid was foiled as thieves failed to extract the machine from the ground and fled the spot.
April 2013: Unidentified miscreants decamped with the State Bank of India's ATM from a booth in the market at Morni T-point near Chandimandir toll plaza. There was around `15-16 lakh in the ATM.
Sept 2012: Two thieves used a gas cutter to cut an ATM machine and fled away with `8.31 lakh in Sector 12A. Randhir Singh and Rajiv Shukla were arrested for theft. Singh used to work as a cash loader for a private firm.
July 2012: Unidentified miscreants made an unsuccessful attempt to break an ATM of the Punjab National Bank located at Hindustan Machine Tool complex in Pinjore.
August 2013: An attempt was made to rob an ATM on the Kurali-Chandigarh highway. Later, two persons were arrested in the case.
Some suggestions you may take note of safeguard against untoward incident while inside ATM, to avoid cloning/ misuse of ATM:
Register your mobile number with the bank, so that you get an SMS in case of transaction from your account
When approaching the ATM, look closely at the front of the card slot. If this has been burned and melted somewhat, or if the slot protrudes more than it usually would then a cloning device may have been fitted.
Many devices for cloning cards fit over the existing slot, so if the colours of these parts are slightly different in colour from the rest of the machine, this is also something to look out for
Cover the keyboard while typing PIN, cloning would be futile if fraudsters cannot access the PIN
If anyone tries to enter the ATM while you are making transaction, inform the guard and protest
If going to an ATM in the dark and without a guard, ask someone to accompany you.
Call police or inform your bank immediately if you see some suspicious activity in any ATM.
We are trying and putting guards wherever possible. It is the joint effort by the public, police and bank officials to make the ATMs safer. The basic norms and rules of operating an ATM should be followed by all and incase of any suspicion the customer should immediately inform the bank.
Arvind Kumar Singh, area general manager for SBI ATMs
There have been cases in the past also, but banks alone cannot handle the situation. The police and city administration need to actively participate to make the city safe. Also as far as guards are concerned, though it is an advisory, we are ensuring to have guards for all our ATMs.
Senior official (requesting anonymity), HDFC Bank
Despite our several instructions, most of the banks have not deployed guards. We have written to the banks several times, but to no avail. We try our best to deploy police party in the markets where there are no guards at the ATMs. We urge the authorities concerned to take strict against the banks for not deploying the guards.
Swarandeep Singh, SP (city), SAS Nagar
As a woman, you feel very unsafe while using an ATM without a security guard. Yes, many ATMs have CCTV camera but eventually what help is a camera if an untoward incident occurs.
Anjali Grover, resident of Panchkula
Banks really need to step up their security arrangements at ATMs, especially in the evening. Even if there are guards at an ATM, they are most likely asleep which is a scary prospect for those using the ATM.
Surprit Rekhi, resident of Panchkula
Most of the ATMs, especially in the northern sectors, are unsafe. The ones in small booth markets are further unsafe as once the shops close down in evening there is no safety of those visiting the ATMs.
Rajinder Gupta, resident of Chandigarh
I am a working woman and generally get time to visit ATM only in the evening. While most ATMs have no guards, the ones who have are quiet absent minded. With the kind of incidents we are hearing, I avoid going alone to ATMs.
Rattanjit Kaur, resident of Balongi
With ever rising number of crime incidents related to ATMs, it should be the top priority of any bank and even the police to assure safety of people visiting ATMs. The banks run after people when they have to make them customers, but later quite an indifferent behaviour is shared by them.
Shekhar Srivastava, resident of Chandigarh
Most of the ATMs of government banks in the town do not have guards and surprisingly, some of them are located in the area where there are no streetlights. Despite so many incidents being reported, the authorities concerned have failed to tackle with the problem.
Dr Ajaiwant Singh Cheema, director, Cheema medical complex, SAS Nagar
It should be made mandatory for banks to have guards at ATMs and if they fail to do so, their ATMs should be immediately sealed. The authorities should also frame guidelines for setting up ATMs as there is a rat race among various banks to provide ATMs in every nook and corner of the cities.
Vikas Bawa, resident of SAS Nagar
Contributed by Jyotsna Jalali, Hillary Victor, Bhartesh Singh Thakur and Monica Sharma