Of course, ATM’s were designed for our fast-paced lives. However, don’t be in such a hurry that you neglect a few simple ATM safety precautions that can protect you from being a victim of crime. By implementing these 15 ATM safety tips, you will significantly reduce the odds of being the victim of ATM crime.
1.As you are arriving at the ATM location, take a good look around and survey the area before getting out of your car (or rolling down your window if it’s a drive-thru ATM).
•Is anyone sitting in their car nearby?
• Are there bushes that someone could be hidden behind?
• Is anyone hanging out on the sidewalk down by the road?
2. If someone was using the ATM when you arrived, observe what they do after they are done. Someone who has ill motives, my “plant” as a bank customer and just be pretending to use the machine in order to gain close proximity access to you. There was a case in Florida, where the criminal was pretending to use the ATM machine and then waited in their car until their female victim had withdrawn her cash to rob to rob and assault her.
3. Your peripheral vision is compromised when you are using a drive-thru ATM. This provides a blind spot for criminals to use this to their advantage when approaching their target for a “grab and go” theft. Be aware of this and turn your head to look over both your left and right shoulders while waiting for your transaction to process.
4. Keep your doors locked. Many new car models will automatically unlock the doors when the car is put in PARK as a convenience. However, this leaves you vulnerable to attack, robbery and carjacking.
5. Many grocery store chains have bank branches inside them, with ATM machines inside the physical grocery store for after-hours customers. Use these interior ATM machines whenever possible because there are lots of lights and activity in the grocery store which minimize your risk. A criminal would also have to run through the store and out the door to escape if they did rob you.
6. No grocery stores with interior banks in the area? No problem. Go into a grocery store, convenient store, gas station and purchase something small (for example, a pack of gum) and then opt for cash back at checkout when making your payment selections.
7. If you must use an outside ATM machine, use a drive-thru ATM (as opposed to an outside walk-up machine) at night. And preferably one that you don’t have to wait behind another car to use. A car thief may easily pose as a customer using the machine and have a passenger jump out to rob you, or even carjack you, while you are waiting in the drive-thru line. You are unable to drive away in an emergency exit because the criminals have blocked you in.
8. Save multiple transactions for a safer time during the bank’s open hours. When you get off your shift and it’s already dark, don’t deposit your paycheck, withdraw money for the night out with your friends and transfer money to your savings account.
9. If you have to go to an ATM after dark, bring a friend with you if possible. If that’s not possible, something as simple as having your dog in the car with you, can deter an attacker who doesn’t want to experience the mean of a dog bite.
10. Have your stun gun or pepper spray in your hand or in your lap (in the car) when you have to visit an ATM machine in either the day or night. These self-defense products do absolutely no good if they are in the bottom of your purse or glove box of your car.
11. If you are unable to have a friend accompany you to the ATM after dark, it is a good idea to have one on the phone while you are there. We don’t mean, have a conversation about the latest gossip. We mean, have them on the line while you are in the situation to listen for any signs of an emergency. Besides, you should have your pepper spray in one hand and your ATM card in the other to get your business done quickly. (see #10)
12. When using a walk-up ATM machine, don’t be shy! If you feel like someone is “helicoptering”, ask them to please step back out of your personal space before you insert your card.
13. If someone calls your cell phone, while you are at the ATM machine- don’t answer it. Not even to tell them that you will call them back. This takes your attention away from getting your money and getting gone. Remember, you want to do your business quickly and leave.
14. Don’t hang out in your car, putting your money and receipt away or replying to a text message on your phone when you’re done with your transaction. Tuck them under your car visor and get moving. When you sit in the parking lot after your transaction, you may as well put a neon sign above your car that says, I JUST WITHDREW MONEY.
15. Wear a baseball cap if you need to visit the ATM after dark. When a woman looks more like a man, she is less likely to be the target of an opportunistic attacker.
Finally, notify the bank if the ATM location that you frequent feels like an unsafe area to you. All banks welcome the input of their customers and will gladly cut the hedges or install additional lighting for the safety of their patrons. Then pat yourself on the back because you’ve just done something that could save someone else from being attacked too.
Remember, the best self-defense is safety awareness. With a little practice, these precautions will become second nature and you will be less likely to become the next victim of an ATM related crime.
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