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Crime Involving ATMs Shows No Signs of Slowing

We have seen a significant increase in ATM smash and grab style claims over the first half of 2021. In the most common scenario, known as a “hook and chain” attack, thieves pry the ATM canopy loose with a crowbar, then affix hooks to the safe door and the cash slot. The hooks are connected to a heavy-duty chain, which is attached to a truck or other large vehicle. The vehicle is used to dislodge the ATM from its mooring and rip the safe door from its hinges. Once the machine is breached, thieves take the cash, leaving the broken ATM and the vehicle behind.

In some cases, ATM thieves not only rip the machine loose, they also steal it entirely. Other times, thieves use their vehicle to repeatedly ram the ATM until they can gain access to the safe and cash cannisters. Regardless of the variety of smash and grab attacks, these claims are increasing at a rapid pace. In 2019, nine of these claims were reported to ABA Insurance Services. Last year, the number more than doubled. We are currently on-pace to handle over 30 of these claims in 2021, a 255% increase in just two years . While Texas leads in the number of ATM crimes, claims have been reported across the country from Washington to Pennsylvania. After Texas, they occur most frequently in Nebraska and Kentucky.

These attacks have proliferated because they are profitable and easy to carry out. The average amount of cash stolen in a smash and grab ATM loss is approximately $18,500, well above what a thief might obtain in a traditional bank robbery. These crimes usually take four minutes or less to perpetrate, and the tow grade hook and chains commonly used are available at auto parts stores and other retailers.

There are steps a bank can take to mitigate their exposure to ATM crime. In addition to enhanced lighting, cameras, and audible alarms, experts suggest adding strategically placed bollards in and around ATM kiosks, reinforcing ATM doors, and installing warning signs on machines to indicate they are “hook and chain” proof.

There is also hope stiffer penalties will act as a deterrent. In many jurisdictions, ATM losses are treated as property crime and not prosecuted as robberies. There is increasing momentum to classify these crimes as felonies with mandatory fines and jail time.

The facts of any potential claims situation which may actually arise, and the terms, conditions, exclusions, and limitations in any policy in effect at that time, are unique. Thus, no representation is made that any specific insurance coverage applies. This information provides guidance and is not intended as a legal interpretation of any federal, state or local laws, rules or regulations. ABA Insurance Services Inc. (“ABAIS”) does not warrant that all potential hazards or conditions have been evaluated or can be controlled. The liability of ABAIS and its affiliates is limited to the terms, limits and conditions of the insurance policies issued by ABAIS.