Thursday, September 9, 2010

12 points regarding safety measures in the streets of Argentina


This is in reply to the post: Argentines risking all to carry huge wads of cash.

A lot can be written about this but this will mostly be focused on security around banks and ATMs, and other situations when the chance of being ambushed is greater than average. This is what I do when I make cash extractions.

1)Go alone. If something goes wrong I don’t want my wife and kids around. Of course if you’re lucky enough to have a buddy or two you can count on, by all means take advantage of the opportunity and go with them.

2)If I’m going to extract money through the ATM (here you can get almost a thousand US dollars out of the ATM with certain type of accounts) I’ll usually go around noon when there’s the most people. Going to the ATM after the bank closed isn’t a good idea.

3) I avoid ATM that are directly on the sidewalk or otherwise exposed like the plague. You don’t find much of those here anyway, too risky so they don’t even bother installing them that way. 

4)Asses the immediate area around the ATM. Look for suspicious people nearby, also on the sidewalks. Bikes are used in most of the cases so pay particular attention to motorcycles. What should you be looking for? People that seem to be scanning their surroundings as well. Most people go about their day looking to the ground in front of them, or looking forward minding their business. You’re looking for the guy that looks aware and looking around for something. 

5)When I punch in the PIN, I cover the dial with my other hand. Sometimes they hide pinhole cameras to steal your number.

6) If the money isn’t coming out or the credit card gets stuck, I make sure there’s not a “fisher” catching it. Sometimes they place a piece of folded metal inside so as to catch the money you extract, so as to steal either later once you leave, thinking its because of some other problem.

7) I often look into the reflection of the ATM screen to check if someone is staring at me or behaving suspiciously behind my back. Also, look to the sides, turn around and watch your back. Don’t be worried about being rude. Being nice wont do you any good with criminals.

8) Count the money carefully, place it in a pocket as discretely as possible before leaving, don’t hurry.

 9) Asses your surroundings once again. Once I turn around, I look around me again to see if there’s anyone suspicious. Sometimes, criminals know you know. Its an “I see you, you see me” type of mental game. It may not seem like much but for the criminal it’s a world of a difference because he mostly counts on the surprise factor. When you asses people around you, you detect him and look straight into his eyes, so that he knows you know. He may make his move but its not going to be a surprise, and if you don’t look like someone he wants to take a chance with he will look for an easier victim.

10) Change your routine. Don’t go always the same day, at the exact same time.

11) What I do is hurry into a galleria near by, then check if there’s anyone following me. The galleria has two advantages a) lots of people, including some private security that isn’t the best thing but better than nothing b) it has 3 exits, so anyone following you will either be detected when you check your six or will have to try his luck guessing which exit you take. I go in, check my back, if not sure I walk into a store, then see if the guy is still there waiting. What if you do have a tail? What if there’s actually someone you saw and then again you notice when you walk into a store? You stay inside the store looking directly at him. If he doesn’t leave, tell the store manager or call the cops yourself on your cell phone. The couple times I saw someone suspiciously walking my way and then suspiciously waiting while I went into a store, they left after making it clear that I saw him, waiting there until they left. 

12) Your car should be near by. Once you know you don’t have someone on your back, you can get into your vehicle. Its important to make sure you don’t have someone tailing you because the time when you open your car door is of certain risk: You’re turning your back to the world, you’re handling your car keys. You could be pushed inside the car and kidnapped. That’s why you have to make sure you don’t have someone following you before approaching your vehicle. Better yet, have someone waiting for you behind the wheel.

These are the things I do. Maybe its not very scientific or cool but it has worked for me so far.  



Anonymous said...

Why do you use an ATM instead of going into a bank and deal with a bank teller?

Is that a worse way to get cash?

In the U.S. my bank's tellers often loudly count back the money. This bothers me a bit.

I finally find one good teller who counts the money back in a quiet voice, saying one, two, three instead of one hundred, two hundred, three hundred - but she transferred. I'm not sure how I should tell the new teller not to be so loud, I guess that's a good reason to use an ATM, but in my state there seems to be a $300 ATM withdraw limit.

I think maybe having a friend or relative working there would be an advantage. Or I should take a teller to lunch and explain? That seems risky too though.

The way you describe things it seems like there's even criminals watching the criminals who are watching you, resulting in domino robberies?

I wonder what you think of drive up ATM's? That seems like it would be safer than walking to one, but slightly riskier for using one that's been tampered with, although I don't see how it would be easy for a criminal to tamper with an ATM drive up in front of a heavily used bank?

Things are still too calm here to relate to your experiences entirely, but I try.

Bones said...

One method occasionally used is to attach a fake card reader over the real one. It scans your card number but nothing happens. It was actually tried at an annual hackers conference and was sniffed out almost immediately.

jg said...

Very useful, FerFal; thanks!

Shambhala said...

Good ideas. Good ideas for Houston, Denver, or any large city.

EN said...

Another interesting move is to back track on foot for a block or so. Get within a dozen meters of your ATM and then turn and go back the way you came for a block and duck in a store, as if you forgot something. Always watch corners in both directions, whether on foot or in a vehicle.

Anonymous said...

I don't deal with banks or ATMs. When I need cash, I get it at the grocery store by adding the amount I need to my bill (I have a store-issued debit card that is linked with my permission to my checking account).

The cashiers used to say "here's your $60" (or whatever -- I'm limited to how much cash I can request at a time), but they don't do that anymore. Now they just say "here's your change" when they hand me my receipt.

Security is lax, however. All of the numbers (my grocery bill and the cash I get back) are displayed in big letters on a screen that's above the register. Anyone looking at this screen will see what I'm doing.

I rarely need cash or checks for anything because I do almost all of my finances online. If the banking network ever goes down, I wouldn't be able to buy anything. But that hasn't happened so far. I do keep some cash in my wallet for emergency situations.

Anonymous said...

While situation in france isn't as bad (yet) I think another tip can be added.

Cash out another day

You go cashing out, look around and if something doesn't sound normal, just go away. If you FEEL insecure on a particular day/place, go somewhere else.

When you ahve a doubt, avoid taking the risks. Don't think about wether this particular doubt is justified, and trust you gut.

Anonymous said...

Good advice is to just be paranoid when taking out money from an atm or bank.

Expect for someone to know you have cash and want to steal from you.

This means specifically going to get cash out, not in the middle or start of a shopping trip. Thus you'll be more focused on the goal at hand.

tjbbpgobIII said...

There's a limit on what I can take out at any given time, not daily, but I just re-use the card immediately to get the amount I want. While out with my wife, I will often let her use her keys and have her get in and start the car, after which she will open my door and I will get in and drive away. I will be chicking all around while this is happening and I don't just use it in bad neighborhoods but all the time in order to keep it front and center.

Rourke said...

I used to have to make deposits at ATM machines after work - and followed similiar precautions. Over here I had a pistol in a canvas bag that held the deposit pouch.

Like what Anonymous said - I rarey go to the bank anymore. If I want cash I get it at the grocery store.

Good post!!


Anonymous said...

"Like what Anonymous said - I rarey go to the bank anymore. If I want cash I get it at the grocery store."

There's a huge number of people at grocery stores compared to at banks. With the increase in numbers it seems like there would be an increase in the potential for a criminal mind to be among them watching the checkout line and seeing who gets cash or buys a lot. Big red flag there.

A criminal minded person, or someone who is just plain hungry can linger in a grocery store or the parking lot for many reasons while they scan for potential targets.

People inside or around a bank usually have to have a more specific reason for being there and don't often have cause to linger and scan for potential targets. I reckon that's partly why Ferfal could spot the potential robber in his example. That same edge might not be there while at a grocery store?

In my neck of the woods where crime and unemployment is relatively low I sometimes read or hear about people getting robbed in the grocery store parking lot, but I have yet to read or hear about anyone getting robbed while coming out of a bank, or in the bank parking lot, ever.

While there are a number of bank robberies, I don't know of any that included the customers being robbed at the same time. I think that's due to too much time & effort being required. So far, anyway.

For the most part I stopped using those plastic, purchase-tracking cards a long time ago and as a result I feel like I am more aware of the value of my purchases, find it helps to reduce impulse buying, and helps to control spending overall. The old, "If you don't have it, don't spend it" routine works pretty well.

I like to haggle when I can to get the best price, a debit card seems to make that a bit more difficult than when using cash.

I don't like banks either though, if only they weren't so... fiat-based and ripe for failure.