While you should always be prepared to defend yourself against threats no matter where you are, there are certain activities that require extra caution. Any time you are carrying cash or valuables, or may be perceived to be carrying these items, you become a target for crimes of opportunity. The risk only increases if you're complacent or distracted. If you're looking down at your phone, digging through your backpack, or simply preoccupied with other thoughts, you leave the door wide open to criminals.

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Going to the ATM to deposit a check or withdraw some cash is often a necessity, and many people don't realize just how dangerous this ordinary activity can be. We may assume the public space and security cameras will deter criminals, but a careless or desperate individual won't think twice about these measures. There's plenty of evidence to back up the old adage that ATM stands for “accessory to mugging”. So, you should be on high alert against ATM muggings any time you walk up to one of these machines.

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In the following three videos from Active Self Protection, self-defense expert John Correia analyzes three ATM muggings that resulted in violence. The first occurred in Brazil — if you've spent any time on LiveLeak, you'll know that Brazil is notorious for its brazen and ruthless armed robbers. The situation drags on for several agonizing seconds until the robber is distracted, and the victim is able to draw his handgun.

The second scenario discussed by ASP happened in Venezuela, a country which has experienced a total economic collapse and major political upheaval in recent years. This situation shows that even in a crowded public space, armed criminals may remain a serious threat — don't assume that bystanders will discourage muggers or wait around to help you. Most will either freeze or run. John has many interesting conclusions to draw from this clip:

Finally, here's an ATM mugging that occurred without the involvement of weapons. While the victim managed to escape safely, his poor situational awareness almost caused the situation to end very differently. Watch and learn:

Hopefully these three incidents hammer home the point that ATMs require extra caution. But beyond this, you also need to be prepared to deal with violent opportunistic criminals, regardless of where they may strike. Be aware of your surroundings, keep distractions to a minimum, and be ready to react swiftly if necessary.

For more real-world self-defense lessons, check out Active Self Protection on YouTube.

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