Crime, Defensive Awareness, & Walk-Up ATMs
ATMs are one of the worst inventions from a defensive awareness standpoint. ATMs force you to turn your focus completely away from what's happening behind you. So, while you're busy trying to remember your PIN, covering the keyboard so no one can see your PIN, or checking to see what your account balance is, anything could be happening behind you. Including a thug preparing to attack you and take your money (or worse).
Watch this video to see how easy it is to be attacked at an ATM
The thug looks harmless enough at the beginning of this video. Just standing there, waiting his turn. The gentleman at the ATM clearly thought the thug was no threat. And that's assuming that he was even aware that there was someone behind him.
Attacks and robberies happen at ATMs everywhere nowadays
And that is why we need to be extremely careful when using an ATM.
Whenever possible, use an ATM that is inside a store, mall or other place where there are lots of people. You're less likely to be attacked with so many witnesses around. But be sure to hide your PIN from prying eyes when there are people around.
Some banks have glass cubicles outside their front doors that house their ATMs. You know the ones, where you go through a door to get to the ATM. Avoid using them after hours. Why? Because it's easy for a thug to trap you inside and attack you.
Yes, I realize that those cubical doors can (usually) only be opened by using your ATM card. So you assume you'll be safe inside a locked area, right? But thugs can grab the door before it closes behind you and walk in. Now you're locked in with someone who wants to do you harm.
If possible, have someone go to the ATM with you. They can keep an eye out for trouble while you make your transaction.
Dark or Deserted ATMs
Avoid using any ATM after dark. Thugs like the dark. So try to plan ahead to make sure you have the cash you need before it gets dark.
Never use an ATM that is in a deserted location. Day or night. Predators can hide around corners or behind bushes and surprise you. And some of them don't even bother to hide. They simply walk up behind you and attack (like in the video). The point is, thugs prefer quiet places with no one else around.
Before walking up to the ATM, take a few minutes to look around. Does anything seem "off"? Is someone hanging around the area? Is there a car nearby with someone inside? These could be signs of potential danger.
Related Post: "How to be Safe When You're out Walking"
Remain Aware While Using the ATM
Have your card out and ready to use. When you're searching through your purse or wallet, it's difficult to be aware of your surroundings. Plus, it keeps you standing at the ATM longer. The idea is to finish your transaction and leave as quickly as possible. The longer you linger, the higher your chances of being attacked.
Don't focus solely on the ATM screen. Look around. All the way around. Be aware of what's going on beside and behind you. And if you see someone approaching that makes you feel nervous or leery, cancel your transaction and leave.
Sometimes, just the fact that you are looking around and showing awareness of your surroundings will convince a predator to leave you alone. Since they like to work with the element of surprise, they'll likely look for an easier target.
Grab Your Money and Go
If you're getting cash out, don't count your money at the ATM. Instead, grab the money and your receipt, pocket them and leave. Again, the point is to finish your transaction and leave as soon as possible.
Remember, anytime you use an ATM, inside or outside of a building, awareness is the key to keeping you safer.
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