ATM Safety

Posted by on Feb 15, 2013 in Self-Defense | Comments Off on ATM Safety

ATM Safety

If Attacked at an ATM

If you face danger at an automated bank teller, there are several possible responses.  It is your responsibility to choose the best response for your specific situation. But, before we explore possible responses, let’s start with the most basic of self-defense knowledge—avoiding danger.  Lets consider how this relates to ATM safety.

It would be best for a person to choose the safest ATM machine possible.  During daylight is safer than after dark; drive-up is safer than walk-up; inside a store is safer than outside; full view of the public is safer than not.  Furthermore, when approaching an ATM machine, glance around and consider if you logically, and in your gut, feel safe to use it.

Now, let’s assume mistakes in avoidance were made and you face a potentially dangerous situation at an ATM machine.  If you feel slightly, slightly uncomfortable about a person near you, do not be embarrassed to ask them to step back while you complete your transaction. Personally, I think I might decide to leave with even the slightest feeling of discomfort.

If you feel significant discomfort about a person near you, certainly leave for another ATM machine, or at least ask them if they would like to go first. Making any conversation would let your gut gather more information about the level of danger. If necessary, make a self-defense stance and command them to “back off” while you leave, with or without your card, depending on the level of danger you feel.

Also consider that, feeling significant danger, you might use deception to give you a chance to escape:  You could appear insane, rant about your spouse messing up your bank account, or cuss at the machine as you walk away.

What if you are surprised, and clearly in danger, because physical contact or verbal threat has been made?  The experts I’ve studied all recommend fighting. That surprises me because these same experts recommend handing over your wallet in a “stick-up” elsewhere.

On the one hand, it seems to me a person who would attack at an ATM machine only wants money, so why take the risk of fighting?  On the other hand, it is possible that the attacker wants to kidnap a victim, force them to withdraw money from multiple ATMs, then kill them and leave their body in the desert. Whether you decide to immediately fight is up to you.  I think I’d go with my gut at the time.

If you decide to immediately fight, if facing the ATM machine, you’ll likely start with a rear elbow, then continue to strike while turning to get a good view of the attacker and see if additional strikes are necessary or if you have a chance to leave. Leave as soon as possible. If however, the attacker has spun you and is holding onto you with both hands, you can assume there is no weapon (barring another attacker). The fact that there is no weapon involved makes it safer for you to choose to throw palms and knees until you find a chance to leave, but also less likely that kidnapping is their goal.

My goal, as always, is to cause you to make self-defense decisions before you face danger, rather than to tell you what to do in a specific situation.  I thank FAST Defense and Krav Maga 702 for their ATM safety information, which I studied in preparation for this article.


Marcy Shoberg is the creator of “Bring Out Your Inner Bodyguard in Two Weeks or Less” home study course for adults and seniors. See