Alvin Mills

Alvin Mills
VP of Information, Technology & Security

ATM theft – Why steal the cookie when you can steal the cookie jar?

ATM theft – Why steal the cookie when you can steal the cookie jar?The theft of ATMs is yet another crime that continues to plague our industry. This includes the rise of cyber threats to ATMs, such as skimming, shimming, cash-out and jackpotting, as well as the age-old technique of crash and grab the whole ATM.

And, just as criminals are using advanced technology to circumvent cyber controls, they are using more equipment, sometimes heavy machinery, and more resources to make a quick getaway. I heard about one recent ATM theft in Texas that involved seven criminals and heavy machinery; the ATM was stolen in 36 seconds. Most are easily in and out in less than two minutes.

Criminals try twice a week on average to steal machines around Dallas, according to the Dallas Morning News. They have hit convenience stores, hotels, gas stations, pharmacies and restaurants in all sections of the city. The New York Post earlier this year reported on a gang of ATM bandits who stole 73 machines over 12 months, netting hundreds of thousands of dollars.

There aren’t a whole lot of statistics on ATM theft in America but using a very conservative assumption of 50 ATM thefts per day nationwide and allowing $2,500 for the ATM and $10,000 for repairs and loss of business, the cost of crash and grab theft comes to $625,000 per day, $19 million per month, $228 million per year, according to ATM Marketplace. And that’s just property loss.

According to the article, the total does not account for the theft of cash from the machine itself. Assume a modest $1,000 for each theft and you rack up another $18 million in losses. Add to this the estimated $4.5 million from bank attacks, and the total annual loss from crash-n-grab ram raid thefts in the U.S. comes to a hefty quarter of a billion dollars.

As with many crimes, there is the danger of escalation. Many of these events are carried out while employees are working in the store.

Prevention is key

According to Shawn Scott with the Robbery Investigators of Texas, the Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth metro areas have been hit extremely hard. Crimes vary from theft of the entire ATM or burglary of the ATM. These crimes are not exclusive to the larger metropolitan areas as these offenses are also occurring in rural areas. Financial institutions along with retail establishments are being targeted.

These types of crimes can be almost impossible to eliminate but potential victims may benefit from hardening their target. Scott suggests the following measures:

  • Ensure adequate lighting covers the ATM, especially when the ATM is in a secluded area of an institution.
  • Ensure the institution maintains quality exterior digital surveillance with proper positioning and coverage.
  • Consider placing exterior signage at the institution’s entrance/exits, announcing the existence of exterior digital surveillance and real time monitoring.
  • Consider audible alarms, tracking devises and additional internal/external locking mechanisms that may be utilized for the ATM.
  • Consider making the ATM inaccessible during the early morning. This may possibly be accomplished by positioning or parking a vehicle in front of the ATM.

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