Smash-and-Grab ATM Thefts on the Rise

More criminals are targeting automated teller machines at c-stores and banks.

February 12, 2021

NEW YORK—More criminals have been smashing and grabbing ATMs from outside of banks and inside convenience stores, Insurance Journal reports. Travelers insurance firm registered a 220% bump in claims for ATM theft damage in 2020 over 2019. COVID-19 closed or restricted bank hours, with the financial firms encouraging customers to use ATMs.

“You might not hear too many instances of someone just walking into a bank and robbing it,” said Tracey Santor, bond product manager for Travelers. “People might be relying more on ATMs. That’s where the money is going.”

There have been a string of recent ATM thefts at convenience stores. Earlier this month, thieves crashed a stolen van into the front of a convenience store in Prince William County, Virginia, and made off with the store’s ATM, reports. In January in Germantown, Maryland, two people broke into a gasoline station and stole an ATM near the front of the store.

In November, thieves broke into two Baltimore, Maryland, c-stores within miles of each other and removed the ATMs from the stores, WBALTV reports. Store employees at one of the c-stores said the ATM was bolted to the floor, and the thieves used bolt cutters to remove it.

Santor pointed out that smashed ATM robberies involve significant property damage, including to the ATM itself, which cost between $30,000 and $80,000. “I’ve seen front-end loaders or big equipment take out the entire wall,” she said. “I’ve read stories about liquor stores—in the middle of the day they ran their truck into it and they are like a pit crew in a NASCAR race.”

When the Texas Bankers Association noticed a rise in ATM robberies, it gathered an ATM Crime Task Force in the fall to draw attention to the problem. While Houston and southeast Texas have long had numerous ATM crimes, member banks described an uptick in smash-and-grab attacks on ATMs during the summer and fall of 2020.

In October, the FBI issued a Private Sector Liaison report that indicated criminals used explosives to blast their way into ATMs. The Texas task force’s November report relayed that organized crime was behind the majority of ATM crimes in the state. The report estimated around $13 million in cash has been taken during ATM robberies. “When the cost of equipment damage is combined with cash losses, the total estimated ATM smash and grab losses in Texas skyrocket to $24 million,” the report said.

The ATM Industry Association data put the number of ATM thefts up 148% from 2019 to 2020, with the theft of entire ATMs by vehicles rising 53% and the use of explosives to break into the safe jumping 23%.