Sometime this week, the majority of you will do this one thing: make a visit to your local ATM. It's a task that we've all become very comfortable with. The convenience of just driving, or walking, up to a machine that is standard at any major bank in the world, put in your card, your code and within seconds you have cash in hand.
Folks, it is that "cash in hand" that is still a serious attraction to criminals.
While some thieves have gone high tech and placed illegal readers onto the ATM card reader itself (which we will discuss shortly), most criminal incidents at ATM's still amount to the old gun-in-the-back routine.
By now you are all familiar with my recommendation for people caught up in convenience store incidents (see the previous article on this site). They are: comply, hide, flee or fight. These same principles apply here.
But what kind of things can we do from a pro-active perspective to help prevent anything evil from happening to you at an ATM?
First, be aware of your surroundings. Follow your gut instinct. When you pull up to the ATM, and before you roll down you window or unlock your door to get out of your car, look around. That means, 360 degrees of look-around. If you see something that just doesn't seem right to you (once again, depend of your gut instinct), then simply drive away.
Seriously, how far away is the next ATM? Is it so far that you're willing to risk your safety? If the area is clear of any concerns, and you're at a drive up ATM, make sure that even though you are only rolling down one window, ensure your doors remain locked. Sometimes that takes a little extra effort, because many vehicle doors automatically unlock when your vehicle is put into park.
If you are walking up to an ATM, still remain aware of your surroundings. Do not hesitate to immediately walk back to the safety of your vehicle if you see something suspicious.
As for illegal card readers possibly placed on your ATM, do this. Every time I pull up to an ATM, I reach over and take a firm hold on the part of the card reader that takes my card and I give it a good shake. It shouldn't move. If it does pop off in your hand, set it on the ground and immediately call the police and follow their instructions.
Even while you are making your transaction at the ATM, please remain aware of your surroundings. Do not appear to be timid or shy. Make it known that you are being observant of your area.
Once you retrieve your money, do not count it right there! Wait until you are in your vehicle and it is secure. If the amount you were given is incorrect, there are enough checks and balances built into the machine that you can dispute it with the bank at a later time.
Cold, hard cash has always been a draw to criminals. They know it and now so do you.