*Joy at the ATM *
By Kingpin

Watch your back


In my AO, ATM fraud is one of the more common types of theft.

There are several variants.

They can just hold you at gunpoint and force you to withdraw money. Some of them spin people a clever story and convince them to draw out money for them.

By far the most common one, however, is to interrupt you in the middle of the transaction, and either convince you that the machine has swallowed your card [which they have pocketed], or by switching cards with you. They will have just prior to this observed you entering your PIN code, so once they have your card, they can draw out money up to your daily limit.

Another variant that a Rubicon member has pointed out to me was for them to jump in as the money appeared in the slot and grab it.


The counters to their methods are quite simple.

1) Know what's happening around you

2) Be armed

3) Do not be ashamed to protect yourself


As with most Alpha-group stories, the following events took place far, far away and a long time ago….

My AO is in a large city. It is legal for me to carry my firearm for self-defense. It is also legal for me to shoot to prevent a crime, or in order to arrest someone who has committed a serious crime (involving violence or injury).

I stopped in to get a burger on my way home one night. The time was about 18:15, and it was beginning to get dark. I ordered my burger, and while I was waiting for them to prepare it, I popped outside to draw some money from the ATM.

I always work right handed at an ATM, because I'm a lefty, and this keeps my gun-hand free.

I checked my '6' when I stepped up to the ATM. There was no-one close to me, nor was there anyone walking in my direction. I popped my card into the slot, drew my money, and put it back into my pocket, along with the card. I keep my wallet in a closed pocket while I'm at an ATM, because I don't want to have several things to watch. At an ATM I'm always in Orange, and I bump up to red if anyone who looks vaguely suspicious comes close by.

I decided while I was there to draw some money from another account as well, so I took out the other card and put it into the machine. I noticed someone walking behind me, but he didn't come close enough for me to worry, so I just kept a watch on him. He eventually came around to stand next to me. By this time I was paying a lot more attention. He was a normally dressed black man, in his mid twenties. Instead of waiting behind me, he moved to my right-hand side. I continued my transaction. He stepped forward and moved his right hand toward the keypad. I used my right hand to push his left shoulder away from me and backwards. He gave me a surprised look, and as I pushed him further back and gave him a warning glance, he muttered something about 'pushing a button to get your transaction free'. I kept looking at him and moved my hand to the butt of my revolver. Oops! I'd tucked my shirt over my gun because I'd taken my jacket off earlier, and I'd forgotten to untuck it again. I gently pulled the shirt up and put my hand onto my gun, watching him all the while.

I completed my transaction, and put the money and the card into my jacket pocket.

I then went back to the shop to get my burger. He stepped up to the ATM machine, and started to do something with it, before I stepped into the shop and lost sight of him.


After Action Analysis

It is unlikely that he was just someone trying to help me at the ATM. If I hadn't pushed him away, he probably would have tried to take my card.

I made several mistakes.

1) I didn't keep checking my '6'. I did check before I started my second transaction, but it was just a quick glance and not a proper check.

2) My firearm was not immediately available. I 'never' tuck my shirt over my gun, but I had done so this time. If I had needed it, I would have been delayed, possibly enough to get me killed.

3) I did not have my pepper-spray with me. I had left it in my other jacket pocket. I was well-armed, but my knife and my gun are a higher level of force than pepper spray, and it is always a good idea to have several options. In this situation, pepper-spray would have been very effective if he had continued to bother me, because he was close enough for me to hit him accurately in the face with it. This is the pepper-spray I tested in my anti-rape articles, and I know how effective it is.

Pepper-spray would have been good to have because he had not threatened my person, and did not appear to be armed. Shooting him would have been legal if he had tried to rob me, but without evidence that he intended to harm me, I would not shoot him, and so pepper spray would be a better choice.

I did a few things right

1) I was aware of my surroundings. I did check my '6' and I was aware that he was approaching

2) I was more alert than usual at the ATM.

3) I was carrying a weapon, so if things had turned nasty I could have protected myself.

4) I took immediate action.

Taking action is the hardest part of self-defense. Knowing when to act is difficult, because most normal people have been conditioned not to hurt other people. The difficulty is in conditioning yourself to respond aggressively when you are threatened.

5) I took appropriate action

He was not a physical threat, so I was not justified in pulling a gun on him (IMHO anyway). He had initiated action against me, so I was justified in pushing him away from me. Inaction would most likely have resulted in him stealing my card, so inaction would have been inappropriate.


After discussion with some Rubicon members, I found out some things I had never thought of.

The guy that came up to the keypad could have been waiting for money to pop out of the slot so he could grab it and run. Sometimes people feel safe when a thief steals their ATM card because they don't have the PIN number. If it has the visa logo on the card they just run it as credit charge.

In certain areas all ATM's have CCTV's in them or pointed at them. Some hide it behind a little mirror/window on the machine itself, others put one aimed at the ATM so you can see what's going on around the machine.

As for what I’d have done if he had bothered me again, I would have drawn my gun and made him sit on the floor while I got the shop's staff to call the cops. He hadn't threatened me physically, so I wasn't keen to escalate things, but if he had reached into his pockets, he'd have been facing my gun. I keep some cable-ties in my car for just this sort of situation, so if I'd needed to cuff him I could have.

I did have my cellphone with me, and I should probably have called the cops, but I didn't think of it until later on.


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