RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Thieves targeted seven people at Henrico and Richmond ATMs last year, in a trend that is growing nationwide.
The ATM card is access to fast cash for you. Unfortunately, the same goes for criminals across the U.S.
A Virginia waitress, who asked not to be identified, is one of the victims. A man appeared out of the darkness, she threw her hands in the air, as she was staring down the barrel of a gun.
"I was trying to keep the gun out of my face," she said. Her assailant was demanding money and her cell phone. Security footage shows her desperately trying to punch numbers into the machine."I just wanted to make it out of there alive."
When the cash popped out, she took off and he fired three shots, narrowly missing her. Across the nation, surveillance videos and pictures show masked or hooded men robbing people at ATMs. Many more are being abducted from parking lots and taken at gunpoint to ATMs.
In Memphis along, there were 135 crimes involving ATMs over a five-year period, reports WMC-TV. That amounts to one incident every other week.
No one is tracking the terrifying crime. Police departments are not required by the federal government to provide statistics on ATM crimes. Henrico had 205 robberies last year. In an email, the agency admitted, "We do not keep track of just ATM robberies, so unless they read the narratives for 180 plus reports, they would not know."
Richmond Police responded similarly to a request. With help from both agencies, a pattern of violent ATM-related crimes emerges in just the last few months in the areas.
There were four abductions at gunpoint from parking lots in Henrico's west end since September. All of the victims were taken to ATMs along the Broad Street corridor near Short Pump. So far, police have made no arrests.
There were three ATM crimes in Richmond in just the last six months. One of them happened in a heavily populated Shockoe Bottom neighborhood. Police say a man and woman abducted their target and also sexually assaulted her.
"Crime victims, it's a very animalistic thing. They're looking for weakness in you," said Emiel Fisher, owner of RDP Worldwide. He has 30 years of experience providing security and conducting surveillance.
When driving up to an ATM, he says to be sure to look around.
"If you do it for a while, you'll get used to it. It becomes second nature," said Fisher. He also says you never put your car in park at a drive-up ATM. "Be ready to go the first thing you see, anything you see. Leave it in drive and be ready to pull off."
He says to do a lap and scan the perimeter, looking for anything suspicious. Know where your exits are and be prepared to use them. Leave extra space between you and the car in front of you. "Like 10 feet, that way you could just jerk the wheel and go," said Fisher.
He says only go to a walk-up ATM during the day, never at night. Leave your purse and your cell phone in the car. Have no distractions.
"As you're walking up, continue to look around and always pay attention. You're only going to be here for a very short period of time." Once in front of the machine, he says, "Stand sideways. You don't have to stand looking at the machine facing forward. People get so locked into this they forget the rest of the world."
He says crime is random, but by always being on your guard you can lower your odds of becoming a victim.
"Nothing is 100 percent. All I can do is improve the odds that you're not going to get robbed," said Fisher.