Virtually all of us have used an ATM cash machine at one time or another. They have actually been around since the 1980’s and have become part of our every day lives. Unfortunately, with that convenience also comes complacency. ATM’s offer a true convenience factor to those on the run, but also come with a certain amount of risk.
Being safe while using an ATM does requires a small amount of planning and preparation. Most ATM’s are available around the clock, but there are many factors to consider before choosing to use one.
Consider the Time of Day When Using the ATM
Most ATM related crimes occur at off hours and commonly during late evening and overnight. Often the people committing these crimes are desperate for cash and will escalate their level of force if met with resistance.
A typical crime setup has the criminal secreted somewhere in close proximity to the ATM in an area where they can observe you and your transaction. If you appear unaware or preoccupied they will launch their assault once you remove cash. On some occasions they will approach you while your transaction is still in progress and force you to withdraw the maximum amount of cash your bank will allow.
Many victims claim that they never saw the attacker approach, which substantiates my earlier statement that if they perceive you as weak you are more likely to be chosen as a victim. The attacker is often armed with some type of weapon, sometimes displaying them and other times just threatening their use.
Following are some basic safety tips that can make using an ATM a bit safer:
Choose an ATM in well-lit and high-traffic area. Avoid those that are in remote locations or hidden from view. Many ATM’s are still in originally installed locations when none of this data was available and therefore are located in areas that are potentially unsafe. Often times we find these locations in the rear of a building, behind shrubbery or other landscaping, retaining walls, or otherwise out of public view. Many of these locations offer obvious hiding places for thieves, and provide great cover for their criminal activity.
Criminals that prey upon unsuspecting people using ATM’s count on the element of surprise and no witnesses. They also like easy ways to flee the crime, like nearby highways, or busy intersections. This allows them to commit their crime and either escape quickly or blend in with traffic to avoid detection.
Trust your instincts and choose an ATM that looks and ‘feels’ safe to you, even if it is a couple of miles out of the way. The few extra minutes it takes to travel to a safer ATM will pay dividends in the form of your personal safety. Try and limit your use to daylight hours if possible. If you must use an ATM after hours try and take someone with you if you can. They can be your eyes and ears while you process your transaction.
Monitor Your Surroundings
If lights around the ATM are not working, don’t use that machine. When using a drive up ATM location, scan the area for any suspicious persons AS you approach. If you see anyone suspicious lurking around, drive away and leave the area. During your transaction keep the car in gear, and be ready to abandon your transaction if confronted. Keep a close eye on what is going on around you.
Many ATM attackers will approach from the rear. Always be prepared when you approach an ATM on foot. This is where you are most vulnerable. After inserting your card and your PIN number keep an eye out behind you. Most modern ATM’s are equipped with mirrors to help you see who is behind you.
Put Your Cash Away Quickly
When you receive cash from the machine put it away immediately, retrieve your card, and walk away. Do not leave the ATM with cash in your hand or linger at the machine. Thieves love this behavior because it is very easy to snatch the cash from you and run.
Beware of offers for help from strangers during an ATM transaction, this is a common scam and often times will not result in a violent encounter, but instead the thief ends up with your card and pin number by using what is called a skimming device. Once he has your personal information, all they need to do, is duplicate your card info and spend away.
What To Do If You are Approached
If you are confronted by an armed attacker, comply with their requests. Most often they just want the money and are not looking to harm you. No amount of cash is worth personal injury or even death. Remain as calm as possible, while observing as much as you can about your attacker. Get to a safe location and notify the police immediately.
You may want to consider arming yourself with one of the many less than lethal personal defense sprays available today. These devices are a great way for you to add a layer of protection for you and your family. A quick shot of pepper spray can make the difference between getting away safely, and falling victim to an attacker. Pepper Spray gives you the ability to defend yourself without having to physically fight back.