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ATMs shut down late at night

December 5, 2008

Some government agencies and private institutions in Costa Rica are taking measures to reduce thefts and muggings that are common around the holiday season.

Banco Nacional and Bancrédito announced this week that all of their ATM locations around the country would be closed from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. starting today.

Banco de Costa Rica began the same measure on Wednesday.

“We asked our clients to organize themselves to make their withdrawals during the day time… during a time where their physical safety would not be compromised,” said Manrique Chacón, strategy commercial director for Banco Nacional.

Banco de Costa Rica said in a press release that night-time ATM operations represent only 7 to 8 percent of transactions.

For the most part, these three banks have taken the security measure due to the common practice of “paseo millonario,” or “millionaire ride,” a term for the random kidnappings of people around holiday season where assailants take their victims to various ATM locations and take all of their money.

In many cases, female victims are often sexually assaulted, said Rándal Picado, vice director for the Public Security Ministry.

The ministry has also increased its police presence in key commercial and financial areas around the country. The Aguinaldo Operative has been in place since Monday, deploying hundreds of officers to safeguard residents collecting or using their aguinaldo, the year-end holiday bonus.

Picado advises citizens not to accept assistance with their ATM transactions, not to carry large amounts of money, and not to get distracted while using cell phones in the street.

In addition, the ministry is warning citizens against an e-mail scam regarding muggings around ATMs around the nation, where victims are instructed to mark their personal identification numbers (PIN) backward in order to notify police officers.

The information on this e-mail is completely false, Picado said in a press release.

See today´s print edition of The Tico Times for more on the end-year bonus given to employees, the aguinaldo.

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