PUBLISHED: 3:49 PM 17 Jul 2017

Man Stuck Inside Of ATM Begs For Help As People Think He’s Just Pranking


Customers thought it was a prank when the ATM begin spitting out help notes instead of receipts. In fact, it wasn’t a joke at all. A man, contractor James Portillo, was trapped.

James Portillo’s work mishap has become international news. The Texas contractor accidentally trapped himself inside an ATM last week, forcing bank customers to call for help.

Hoping to save himself, Portillo slipped a small note to the first woman who used the machine. Instead of her bank balance, the paper that slipped out of the receipt slot read “Please help…”

“I was, uh, working on the door, and, uh, as I unlocked the door, as I put in the lock on the door, I walked in. As I walked in, my drill fell out of my hand. When my drill fell out of my hand, the door closed, because I bent over to pick up my drill,” Portillo told KRIS 6 News.

When the door closed, the door jammed shut. I could not pry the door open from inside. The door was hung up on the metal, and there was no way for me to get out.”


The note, originating as it did from an ATM receipt slot, was thought to be a joke. Portillo spent hours waiting for help.

He didn’t panic. He made various attempts to free himself, but none were successful. He had no way to contact anybody he worked with, nor could he alert the bank. His only hope was that a customer might save him.

“I set off the alarms in the ATM room and, tried to get out that way, I mean, I gave it a couple of hours. I realized I didn’t have my phone, because it was charging in my truck, which was the biggest mistake I made that day,” Portillo said. “And uh, I went into the ATM machine, tried to figure out a way out of there, and set off those alarms. Obviously, the police came, but they couldn’t get into the room.”

Portillo originally hid his identity, but as the story continued to pick up speed he decided to break his silence. It was an honest mistake, and nobody was hurt.

However, Portillo insisted to reporters that he was terrified during the ordeal itself. He couldn’t think about it calmly until hours later.


The officer pictured led the effort to rescue from Portillo from the ATM.

“I couldn’t, I mean, I knew I had a time frame because there was a guy who let me in and he was getting out of work at 5:00. So, if I didn’t get out by 5:00, there was only one person who knew I was there, and, you know, they weren’t going to be able to contact him to get me out of the room,” he said.

So he decided to write a note. He knew that he would be able to pass his note to someone who used the machine, but he didn’t know what would happen next.

“I looked around, and I never have anything to write with me, on me, on my person, and, you know, I had a knife on me, I figured, you know, I’d just cut myself and write on it like that. And I looked down and I had a pen in my pocket. Thank god I had a pen in my pocket for some reason,” he said.


Customers might have been wary of believing Portillo’s note because of the recent rise in ATM-related crimes. Sophisticated thieves have learned how to glean your card information when from your swipe.

He scribbled a note and successfully passed it to a customer, but the situation proved to be too unbelievable. That person read the note and laughed, clearly not taking it seriously.

“So I wrote on the notes and, the first person took it and kinda laughed and just took off on me, which was, kinda bizarre for me. Once they took the note, I was like, oh-because my pen was running out of ink and I had to lick the pen so it would write. I only had one note. So, I was like, ‘oh, my god, they took off on me.'”

Luckily, Portillo was eventually able to reach a more credulous person. He was rescued after being trapped for almost three hours.