Self-Defense Tip: Shun ATMs

 

“Nashville Police say in a statement that WZTV is offering the reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person who wounded reporter Erika Lathon late Thursday after she withdrew cash from a Bank of America ATM near downtown,” sfgate.com reports. “Police said the robber demanded money from Lathon, who complied, but he then shot her in the arm and ran away.” This story highlights an important fact: complying with a thief’s demands is no guarantee that you will emerge from a robbery physically unmolested. You pay’s your money, you takes your chances . . .

Of course a risk reward ration applies if you fight (a.k.a., counter-ambush) a robber. More importantly, Ms. Lathon’s horrific experience also focuses attention on a simple, inescapable fact: cash is king . . .

Crooks like cash as much as car dealers (if we’re making that distinction). They follow my late father’s advice: if you want to shoot ducks go where the ducks are. Or, as bank robber Willie Sutton famously opined when asked why he robs banks, “because that’s where the money is.”

All of which means withdrawing cash out of an ATM at o’ dark downtown is a decidedly dumb idea. That said, even at the best of times, they’re a violent attack waiting to happen. In terms of attracting violent thieves, you might as well take your chances at a cocaine dispensing machine. Or an actual cocaine dealer. At least you won’t be facing a wall.

The banks are well aware that ATMs are a bad guy magnet. Truth be told, financial institutions aren’t terribly concerned. You know those card-activated glass booths and the little tiny mirrors some banks place on some ATMs? Security theater. Banks consider ATM robberies part of the cost of doing business—just like credit card fraud.

As always, your safety is your own responsibility, not corporate America’s or the “we’re here to mop up” po-po. Face it (if you haven’t already): ponying-up to an ATM makes you the stupid person in a stupid place doing a stupid thing.

Of course, there are degrees of stupidity. Using an ATM during the day inside a bank with customers and tellers nearby is about as dangerous as telling Shunit Faragi to lay off the felafels. Pulling a late-night Lathon is asking for trouble.

If you have to have cash and the bank’s closed an ATM inside a gas station or your local Stop ‘n Rob is your best choice. (Consider the outrageous transaction fee a security tax.) The trick here: situational awareness. Put your head on a swivel and pay very close attention to what’s going on around you before and [especially] after the financial transaction.

And yes, be prepared to use your firearm. I don’t mean put your hand inside your jacket pocket on a revolver—unless you happen to have a revolver inside your jacket pocket. I’m talking about unbuttoning your outer garments and being mentally ready to defend your life.

Remember: if anything happens at an ATM is going to happen very quickly. Minimize the risk by doing a little surveillance before you swoop in for your Benjamins. Check the spaces where you’d hide if you were going to rob you. And if someone’s surveilling you surveilling them (uh-huh) just walk away.

Personally, I use my debit card for just about everything. Except as a weapon. Although that is an intriguing idea . . .

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

19 Responses to Self-Defense Tip: Shun ATMs

  1. avatarThe Knight says:

    I’m recommending you sharpen your debit card with an 88 cent nail file. It works on the plane when you actually get food that needs cutting as well.

  2. avatarAharon says:

    Reducing risk doesn’t get rid of it yet it helps. Think and plan ahead: take out cash early in the week and leave a portion of it at home. Reduce the number of times using an ATM during the week, and avoid ATMs in crime-prone areas and at night. Be vigilant. Be armed.

  3. avatarAharon says:

    “Personally, I use my debit card for just about everything”

    I prefer to pay with cash Federal Reserve Notes. I don’t like creating a digital paper trail about my life for use by the banks and big brother. I am also trying to avoid the risk of identity theft. When I do use a card I prefer to use a credit and not a debit card since if there is an issue from identity theft to a later argument with a business, using a debit card provides far less legal protections than a credit card.

  4. avatarAverage_Casey says:

    I look around a bit before pulling cash out of an ATM to make sure no one else is around.

  5. avatarChris D says:

    What do you all think about drive up ATMs? Its been months since I’ve driven up to an ATM (gun show cash) but I can’t remember the last time I walked up to an ATM.

    • avatarRalph says:

      Google “holdup at drive through ATM” and see the results. Drive thrus are free-fire zones.

    • avatarbpjester says:

      I’ve stopped using the walk-up atm at my credit union once the drive through atm became operational. When I have to use a walk-up, I scout the area the area first, and I stand bladed off to the side so I can see someone approaching me. The girlfriend knows how to keep watch as well.

  6. avatarDirk Diggler says:

    I rarely use cash. Credit cards give you better legal protections in the event of a loss, and I like the points earn. Moreover, flashing cash or digging around for change just invites someone to smash and grab – may as well hold bearer bonds. Finally, my wife does not go to ATM’s any more, for just this reason. She just hits me up for cash and tells me it is a tax on being the man of the house. Usually she has the crumb-snatchers, read children, so that is fine as I don’t want her to be an easy target (ie, do what I say lady or I will hurt your kids).

  7. avatarAvid Reader says:

    As an example, I bank at a major national. The branch nearest me is in a busy strip mall. The ATM is just inside the main door of the branch in a vestibule that is locked and has card access. Not long ago I went by on a Sunday morning. I needed cash to meet a guy about buying a toy. As I pulled into the parking lot, I noted a distinctly unsavory-looking character milling about in front of the door. I watched him for a minute or two, and he showed no signs of moving on.

    So I did. Drove to a Walgreens and used the ATM inside. Cost me a few minutes, but who knows? Might have saved a DGU and more.

  8. avataruncommon_sense says:

    Maybe the criminal was tired of the anti-gun bias so prevalent in the news media?!?!?!

    All joking (quite possibly in poor taste no less) aside, this is a great example of how criminals could very well shoot you even if you do what they say. In my mind I will never trust a criminal to be “kind” to me after I do what they say. Any apparent attempt on my part to comply with their demands is simply a stalling tactic that I will use to put myself in the best position — literally and figuratively — possible before my counter-attack. And remember to use whatever the criminal demands for a distraction. If they want money, toss it aside. If they want your wallet or purse, toss it aside. If they want your car, toss your keys aside. Get the pattern? And while their focus changes to whatever you tossed aside, counter-attack with ferocity.

    • avatarDirk Diggler says:

      That’s what I am talking about! Kill with extreme prejudice. Your word vs a dead thug . . . . and if you are clean, well-respected member of the community, that’s a lot to overcome . . . .

    • avatarAnthony Meruelo says:

      Uncommon, I took a force on force class this weekend. In the carjacking and mugging scenarios, the students that bought time to draw their weapon by “complying” consistently performed better than those who tried to out draw the bad guy.

  9. avatarLance says:

    Gees now she can see the logic of having a gun to fight back with??? Probably not. But she can’t make a case high cap mags are at fault since she was shot just once.

  10. avatarChas says:

    “All of which means withdrawing cash out of an ATM at o’ dark downtown is a decidedly dumb idea.”

    No one ever accused news reporters of being overly smart, especially in Nashville.

  11. avatarDan Frain says:

    After the 9/11 events, a retired Mossad agent told me he didn’t need a knife, he could cut a throat with a credit card. I doubted him until I took about thirty seconds to put an edge on an old card. I ground it down about fifteen seconds per side on the sidewalk.

    It worked! I could, indeed, cut meat with it. I used it at dinner that day.

    Now some idiot (as een on TV) has used that as part of an ad for a knife sharpener, “sharpen a credit card!”

    Just what we need, more bad guys wise to ways to improvise weapons.

  12. avatarDan Frain says:

    After the 9/11 events, a retired Mossad agent told me he didn’t need a knife, he could cut a throat with a credit card. I doubted him until I took about thirty seconds to put an edge on an old card. I ground it down about fifteen seconds per side on the sidewalk.

    It worked! I could, indeed, cut meat with it. I used it at dinner that day.

    Now some idiot (as een on TV) has used that as part of an ad for a knife sharpener, “sharpen a credit card!”

    Just what we need, more bad guys wise to ways to improvise weapons.

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