Chip Jenkins

Chip Jenkins
TBA Chairman

TBA establishes ATM Smash and Grab Task Force

In last month’s issue of Texas Banking, we featured an article on a widespread crime that is affecting a growing number of Texas banks – ATM smash and grab. Our bank has been a victim of this crime twice in the past three months. The article, written by Barry Thompson, a regular presenter at TBA security programs, provided information about the crime and prevention methods, pointing out that smash and grab attacks are happening all over the world — in rural as well as urban areas. 

This crime is particularly active in Texas, where a heat map put together by TBA staff revealed at least 139 incidents in our state, primarily in the eastern, central and northern areas of the state. Not only does this expensive crime cause massive headaches for the banking industry and law enforcement, but it limits our customers’ access to their financial resources, particularly during the pandemic when many lobbies are closed, and customers depend on ATMs and ITMs. 

In response to this growing crime, TBA established an ATM Smash and Grab Task Force of key stakeholders to share information about the problem, strengthen relationships and recommend ways to combat these crimes. The task force, which met virtually Nov. 16, is comprised of Texas bankers of all charter types, FBI and Houston Police Department officials and representatives of ATM manufacturers and insurance companies. Also participating were Commissioners Charles Cooper of the Texas Department of Banking and Caroline Jones of the Department of Savings and Mortgage Lending.

The information shared by the law enforcement and insurance representatives was enlightening. For example, we learned that 95% of the groups committing this crime are from the Houston area, although they have ratcheted up their activities and have begun traveling across the country. In Texas alone, banks have experienced $13 million in cash losses. This number goes up to $24 million to reflect the cost of the damaged equipment.  

The group also shared ways to deter or prevent this crime, including the installation of vibration sensors in ATMs that trigger an alarm before the perpetrators are able to break into the ATM; bars across the safe area; GPS trackers in the cassettes; surveillance cameras that capture the surrounding area (perimeter of the bank); and barriers on the outer lane of the ATM.

Also discussed was legislation that could be introduced at the state level that would provide stiffer penalties for this type of crime.

TBA is committed to providing resources to help members combat ATM attacks. In addition to last month’s cover feature, we will be sharing recommendations from the Task Force meeting to include deterrents, security improvements and information sharing enhancements — all of which will be key to impacting this growing crime.

TBA’s TruStar information sharing and intelligence network is now tracking ATM crimes along with card fraud and cyber threats to Texas banks. If your bank has not joined this secure and free platform, contact TBA Vice President of IT and Security Alvin Mills: [email protected]. Together, we can fight this latest threat to our banks and communities.