India is freezing all cash refilling ops at ATMs after a certain time to prevent theft


  • The Home Ministry has ordered a clampdown on all cash refilling operations at ATMs after 9PM in cities and after 6PM in rural areas.
  • The ruling is set to go into effect on 8 February 2019.
  • The move follows a rising trend of frauds and thefts of ATMs and cash vans.

India is no stranger to cash shortages. The image of long queues outside ATMs took root in the national conscience following the government’s decision to withdraw all 500 and 1000-rupee notes from circulation in November 2016.

Earlier this year, in April 2018, a number of ATMs across the country in states such as Bihar, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh were reported to be running dry owing to the poor management of cash flow by banks and the recalibration of ATMs to facilitate the supply of new currency notes.

And now?


Things could likely get worse next year since the Home Ministry of India has ordered a clampdown on all cash refilling operations at ATMs after 9PM in cities and after 6PM in rural parts of the country.

The clampdown is stricter in areas affected by Naxalite violence, which will see cash reloading operations halted after 4PM. The ruling is set to go into effect on 8 February 2019.

The move follows a spate of frauds and thefts of ATMs and cash vans. Everyday, thousands of armoured vans travel across the country reloading ATMs. At night, they become particularly vulnerable to instances of theft, especially in areas which are sparsely populated. In the year that ended March 2018, there were 972 cases of theft and robberies recorded, a 65% increase from the previous year, culminating in a total loss of ₹449 million. The states of Bihar, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh comprised a bulk of these cases.

The notification from the Home Ministry laid down a number of instructions for the transportation of cash. All vans must collect cash from banks in the first half of the day and should have two private security guards, one driver and two ATM officers - all of whom should have had thorough background checks. Furthermore, a van has to be fitted with a GPS tracker as well as a CCTV and can’t transport more than ₹50 million. And finally, at least one security guard is to be sitting in the cash van at all times.

Not enough?

India’s ATMs aren’t only vulnerable to theft. A fair portion of them are easy targets for fraud due to their outdated software, something that the new cash refilling policy doesn’t address. Card details can be easily extracted from ATMs through malware programmes and skimming devices.

Last month, a discussion in Parliament revealed that 74% of the ATMs in India are running on old operating systems. As per a notification released earlier in the year, the Reserve Bank of India has ordered all banks to upgrade the software at their ATMs and implement anti-skimming protocols by next year.
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