Crime Prevention and Community Safety

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 1–16 | Cite as

Self-guardianship at automated teller machines

  • Matthew P. J. Ashby
  • Adam Thorpe
Original Article


Automated teller machines (ATMs) are central to the functioning of developed economies, but by their very nature operate without human supervision, making them vulnerable to criminal abuse. This study sought to understand how customers protect themselves from theft while using ATMs. Observations of and surveys with ATM customers were used to identify how individuals protect themselves from theft of cash, card or personal details while using an ATM. The most common self-guardianship measure was to use only ATMs believed to be safe. The majority of customers did not cover the ATM keypad while entering their personal identification number, despite long-running publicity campaigns encouraging this behaviour. This suggests that self-guardianship is important at ATMs, but many customers fail to take even basic measures to protect themselves, their money and their bank details from theft. Banks and crime-prevention practitioners should do more to facilitate and encourage self-guardianship at ATMs.


Automated teller machine Situational crime prevention Self-guardianship 



The authors thank the Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc for funding and facilitating this research, as well as staff of the Metropolitan Police Service, the London Borough of Camden and the City of Westminster for their assistance.


  1. Barthe, E. 2006. Crime prevention publicity campaigns. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice.Google Scholar
  2. Bátiz-Lazo, B., and R.J.K. Reid. 2011. The development of cash-dispensing technology in the UK. IEEE Annals of the History of Computing 33 (3): 32–45. doi: 10.1109/MAHC.2010.3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Braz, C., A. Seffah, and D. M’Raihi. 2007. Designing a trade-off between usability and security: A metrics based-model. In Human–computer interaction—interact 2007, Part II, vol. 4663, ed. C. Baranauskas, P. Palanque, J. Abascal, and S.D. Junqueira Barbosa, 114–126. Berlin: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-3-540-74800-7_9.Google Scholar
  4. Clarke, R.V. 1997. Introduction. In Situational crime prevention: Successful case studiesdies, ed. R.V. Clarke, 1–43. Monsey, NY: Criminal Justice Press.Google Scholar
  5. Cohen, L.E., and M. Felson. 1979. Social change and crime rate trends: A routine activity approach. American Sociological Review 44 (4): 588–608.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cramér, H. 1946. Mathematical methods of statistics. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  7. De Luca, A., M. Langheinrich, and H. Hussmann. 2010. Towards understanding ATM security–a field study of real world ATM use. In Proceedings of the Sixth Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security (SOUPS), ed. L. Cranor. New York: Association for Computing Machinery. doi: 10.1145/1837110.1837131.
  8. Eck, J.E. 1995. A general model of the geography of illicit retail marketplaces. In Crime and place, ed. J.E. Eck, and D. Weisburd, 67–93. Monsey, NY: Criminal Justice Press.Google Scholar
  9. Eck, J.E., and T.D. Madensen. 2015. Meaningfully and artfully reinterpreting crime for useful science: An essay on the value of building with simple theory. In The Criminal Act: The role and influence of routine activity theory, ed. M.A. Andresen, and G. Farrell, 5–18. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Ekblom, P. 2005. Designing products against crime. In Handbook of crime prevention and community safety, ed. N. Tilley, 203–244. Cullompton: Willan.Google Scholar
  11. ENISA. 2009. ATM crime: Overview of the European situation and golden rules on how to avoid it. Heraklion: European Network and Information Security Agency.Google Scholar
  12. Europol. 2012. Payment card fraud in the European Union: Perspective of law enforcement agencies. The Hague: Europol.Google Scholar
  13. Farrell, G., and K. Pease. 2008. Repeat victimisation. In Environmental criminology and crime analysis, ed. R. Wortley, and L. Mazerolle, 117–135. Cullompton: Willan.Google Scholar
  14. Felson, M. 1986. Linking criminal choices, routine activities, informal control, and criminal outcomes. In The Reasoning Criminal: rational choice perspectives on offending, ed. D.B. Cornish, and R.V. Clarke, 119-128. Secaucus, NJ: Springer.Google Scholar
  15. Felson, M., and R. Boba. 2010. Crime and everyday life, 4th ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. doi: 10.4135/9781483349299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Franklin, C.A., T.W. Franklin, M.R. Nobles, and G.A. Kercher. 2012. Assessing the effect of routine activity theory and self-control on property, personal, and sexual assault victimization. Criminal Justice and Behavior 29 (10): 1296–1315.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Giblin, M.J. 2008. Examining personal security and avoidance measures in a 12-city sample. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 45 (4): 359–379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Guerette, R.T., and R.V. Clarke. 2003. Product Life Cycles and Crime: Automated Teller Machines and Robbery. Security Journal 16 (1): 7–18. doi: 10.1057/ Scholar
  19. Hollis, M.E., M. Felson, and B.C. Welsh. 2013. The capable guardian in routine activities theory: A theoretical and conceptual reappraisal. Crime Prevention and Community Safety 15: 65–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Holt, T., and J. Spencer. 2005. A little yellow box: The targeting of automatic teller machines as a strategy in reducing street robbery. Crime Prevention and Community Safety 7 (2): 15–28. doi: 10.1057/palgrave.cpcs.8140215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. ISO. 2011. Personal identification number (PIN) management and securityPart 1, vol. 1, ISO Standard No. 9564-1:2011. Geneva: International Organization for Standardization.Google Scholar
  22. Johnson, S.D., K.J. Bowers, L. Gamman, L. Mamerow, and A. Warne. 2010. Theft of customers’ personal property in cafés and bars (No. 60). Washington, DC: US Department of Justice.Google Scholar
  23. Kosse, A. 2013. The safety of cash and debit cards: A study on the perception and behaviour of Dutch consumers. International Journal of Central Banking 9 (4): 77–98.Google Scholar
  24. Masters, G., and P. Turner. 2007. Forensic data recovery and examination of magnetic swipe card cloning devices. Digital Investigation 4: 16–22. doi: 10.1016/j.diin.2007.06.018.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Mayhew, P. 1984. Target-hardening: How much of an answer? In Coping with burglary: Research perspectives on policy, ed. R.V. Clarke, 29–44. Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Mott, G., and A. Townsend. 2010. About the ATM industry, 2nd ed. unknown: ATM Security Working Group.Google Scholar
  27. Nagelkerke, N.J.D. 1991. A note on the general definition of the coefficient of determination. Biometrika 78 (3): 691–692. doi: 10.2307/2337038.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Newman, O. 1972. Defensible space: Crime prevention through urban design. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  29. Norman, D.A. 1999. Affordance, conventions, and design. Interactions 6 (3): 38–43. doi: 10.1145/301153.301168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. PCISSC. 2013. Information supplement: ATM security guidelines. Wakefield, MA: Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council. Retrieved from
  31. Pease, K. 2006. No through road: Closing pathways to crime. In Crime reduction and the law, ed. K. Moss, and M. Stephens, 50–66. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  32. Reynald, D.M. 2009. Guardianship in action: Developing a new tool for measurement. Crime Prevention and Community Safety 11: 1–10. doi: 10.1057/cpcs.2008.19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Reynald, D.M. 2014. Informal guardianship. In Encyclopedia of criminology and criminal justice, ed. G.J.N. Bruinsma, and D. Weisburd, 2480–2489. New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Reyns, B.W., B. Henson, and B.S. Fisher. 2011. Being pursued online: Applying cyberlifestyle-routine activities theory to cyberstalking victimization. Criminal Justice and Behaviour 38 (11): 1149–1169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Sakharova, I., and L. Khan. 2011. Payment card fraud: Challenges and solutions (No. 34-11). Dallas: University of Texas at Dallas.Google Scholar
  36. Sampson, R., J.E. Eck, and J. Dunham. 2009. Super controllers and crime prevention: A routine activity explanation of crime prevention success and failure. Security Journal 23 (1): 37–51. doi: 10.1057/sj.2009.17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Sutton, R.M., and S. Farrall. 2005. Gender, socially desirable responding and the fear of crime. British Journal of Criminology 45 (2): 212–224. doi: 10.1093/bjc/azh084.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social SciencesNottingham Trent UniversityNottinghamUK
  2. 2.Design Against Crime Research CentreUniversity of the Arts LondonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations