The Evolution of the ATMs. 30 Years Later Still Struggling to Make Them Scam Proof. It Is All About the Human Factors.

futurelab default header

I find that people are over-concerned with online security every time there is a piece of news about identity theft on TV. It is really not that bad and we need to accept the fact that it will not go away. Whatever security mechanism being put can fix one hole but usually creates another hole.


Let me take the example of the ATM, it is a very mature technology (probably about 30 years). Not many people know the first mechanical cash dispenser was developed and built by Luther George Simjian and installed in 1939 in New York City by the City Bank of New York, but removed after 6 months due to the lack of customer acceptance. No customer wanted to get money from a machine. It was a failed innovation.

I remember the one ATM card (Standard Chartered Bank) I used, every time I used it the machine will eat the card and mail it back to me. Not sure what security reason caused the design. So I can only used it once until they send it back in 2 days. It is designed to prevent fraud.

30 years later, there are still many ATM scams. Japan is still trying to figure out a way to stamp out ATM frauds. Chiba Bank has installed phone signal jammers at four unnamed ATMs at bank branches in the Tokyo region, I am not sure what exactly the criminals were able to convince people to do via mobile. I think there are too many cases criminals instruct victims to withdraw cash from the ATM through the cell phone. They often target the elderly, often telephoned by perpetrators claiming to be relatives and in need of some emergency funds. A new innovation at Aichi Bank is now ATMs will now no longer allow consumers to complete the transaction until they hang up. So you cannot be talking to your friends while getting your money.

How it works? A metallic film around the ATM will block access if it detects mobile phone waves. Essentially ATMs will become out of range for mobiles. Not only might this prevent the criminals from relating their information, it also helps to provide a break for the consumer to think carefully about the transaction.

While others are jamming cell phones, BT Broadband is converting 2,500 ATM machines to serve as free Wi-Fi hotspots. And for some places like Tibet, people are blessed (literally) with money with their ATM withdrawals. A relatively new addition to Lhasa’s old city urban infrastructure an ATM machine – including the red pasted duilian – effectively blessing every transaction that passes through this machine. It is a way to making money clean (legally). Here’s another real customer unmet need. (Photo courtesy of Chip Chase)

Original Post: