There have been nearly a dozen armed robberies or attempted robberies that have been reported throughout Richland County in the last two months that all follow a similar pattern, authorities said.
In Columbia, the victims have been approached between 9 and 11 p.m. while making deposits for their employer.
"When we got to the bank, we don't show the money or we don't make it obvious that we are going to the bank to deposit anything," said Le Peep store owner at the Village at Sandhill Gabriela Hernandez.
Hernandez said she tries to take the right precautions when making a deposit.
Last weekend, a suspect held up a woman trying to make a deposit at the Wells Fargo right across the street from Le Peep.
"I don't actually send any of my employees to do deposits," Hernandez said. "Either my father or I take care of it, which we are the owners, and we make sure we do it during the daytime."
Authorities said in the last six weeks, thieves have targeted employees who are making nighttime drop-offs.
"They've done their homework," said Jennifer Timmons with the Columbia Police Department. "They know when stores are closing. They know when the patrons are counting the money and they know around a certain time of the evening, the store is going to be closing and the employees are going to have to go to the bank to drop off their deposits for the end of the day or the end of the week."
The suspects will hide and then approach the unsuspecting employee, authorities said.
"The suspects have been disguising their faces -- either a mask or hat, wearing all black or dark clothing and it seems to be a blue bandana to cover up the face," Timmons said. "The ones that we've had, the individuals are armed and they point the guns right at the window of the driver's side."
Local law enforcement offer free escorts if you are making a nighttime deposit.
And if you're simply going to the ATM, day or night, always be aware of your surroundings.
"Night deposits are certainly where the risk increases but we know that criminals are looking for that fast cash and an easy opportunity," Timmons said. "It could happen during the daytime as well."
Authorities always encourage those who find themselves victims of a crime to comply with demands.
"We want them to comply with their demands," Timmons said. "We don't want them to resist in anyway. Just give them the money because no amount of money is worth risking your life."
No one has been hurt in any of these cases.
If you are an employee, making a deposit day or night, you're encouraged to call police for an escort.
For reach Columbia police, call their non-emergency dispatch number at 252-2911.
You should call about 30 minutes before you're ready to make the deposit.
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