Physical ATM attacks are violent, mostly unsuccessful

The days of Bonnie and Clyde style bank heists are no longer in vogue. In their place, brute force attacks on ATM machines are making the news on an almost daily basis.

Only one in three ATM physical attacks are successful, according to a recent report by Europol and the European Crime Prevention Network, yet even the unsuccessful ones leave a wake of destruction in their path and create an unsafe, and terrifying environment for locals.

The European Association for Secure Transactions, a non-profit organization that tracks the EU financial sector, describes four main types of physical attacks.

Rip-out attacks
In a rip-out attack, crooks use a backhoe or a forklift to break down a wall and scoop out the ATM like the insides of a ripe watermelon. After the attack, the ATM may be hauled elsewhere, where the thieves can figure out at their leisure how to break open the safe inside the ATM.

In Northern Ireland, an outfit dubbed “the hole in the wall gang” was responsible for a recent spate of digger attacks. The attacks involved gang members stealing nearby digging equipment in the wee hours and using those to knock down building walls, grab the ATM, load it in the back of a truck — or a van with its roof cut off — and drive off into the sunrise.

Pull-out attacks
In this genre of attack, thieves wrap a chain or rope around their bounty and attach the other end to a powerful towing vehicle. The vehicle then drives off, pulling the ATM along with it. The ATM is often loaded into the truck or another vehicle and then hauled away.

In September 2018, thieves in Portland used a truck and a chain to yank an ATM out of a convenience store, but their plans were foiled when they crashed into a metro bus while fleeing.

Attacks with tools
When there’s no backhoe nearby to steal, a fall-back option is a grinder or thermal lance. In this scenario, criminals cut open the ATM and access the safe to remove the cash. A year ago, thieves used an angle grinder to try to open an ATM in Houston, but they apparently didn’t have the right tools as they gave up and abandoned the effort. The pros know that thermal tools often work better at cutting thick metal parts.

Explosive attacks
Plofkraak is the Dutch word for breaking in by blowing up. Starting last year, there was a wave of pofkraak attacks in Brazil where criminals were using explosives to detonate ATMs. Here’s how it works: pour the right amount of flammable gas through an opening in the ATM, like the card slot or the money drawer, and ignite it with a time delay or a remote method. Once the safe has been gutted, the thief grabs the cash, or what’s left of it.

Source: ATM Marketplace