l e a d i n g
a d v o c a t e
f o r
t h e
b a n k i n g
i n d u s t r y
k a n s a s
SECURITY OFFICER’S BY-WORD
ATM CASH THEFTS
By Charles M. Towle, KBS President
Kansas Bankers Surety, Topeka, Kansas
NE SATURDAY MORNING, A
reported to the bank that the drive-up
ATM was not working. The bank checked
the ATM, which displayed an error code
indicating the ATM was out of money. A look
inside revealed that it was indeed out of money. In fact, the
dispensing canisters were missing from the safe as well as the
cash they contained.
The investigation revealed no signs of tampering, neither on
the access panel lock nor on the safe combination dial. The
canisters and money had just disappeared.
A review of the video camera provided a partial explanation.
The ATM records showed that the last successful transaction
had occurred at 1:10 a.m. At 1:23 a.m., a car could be seen
parking and turning its lights off across the parking lot. A
shadowy image of a person could be seen leaving the car and
moving out of view of the camera. The person approached
the machine from the side, and only his sweatshirt from below
the shoulders to his waist could be seen on the video. Within
a few seconds, the access panel was opened. Thirty seconds
later, the safe door could be seen opening. Within a few more
seconds, all three money canisters were removed, the safe was
closed and the access panel was closed. The theft took about
Only two bank employees had access to the safe combination.
The investigation revealed that they could not have taken the
The ATM manufacturer was called to investigate the matter.
Their investigator explained that the alarm was not designed to
be triggered on this style of ATM when the access panel was
opened. No alarm is triggered if the normal combination is
used to open the safe. It was learned that the manufacturer did
not make access panel keys and locks unique. In fact, many
ATMs of the same model open with the same key.
The manufacturer told the bank that this was the twenty-second
similar incident reported to them in five years.
It is improbable that 22 different bank employees working for
22 different banks decided to steal using the same method.
The manufacturer came up with a theory: one of the thousands
of people with a key to the access panel lock may have
perpetrated the crime. Of course, no one had access to the 22
different ATM safe combinations. Bank personnel were the
only ones with the combination for each bank’s ATM safe.
Several videos showed the safes were opened in only seconds,
making it impossible for someone to be trying different
combination codes. The manufacturer speculated that if the
combination lock was not locked properly, the crook could
quickly open the safe and remove the canisters of cash.
A test of this hypothesis revealed that the combination turned
slightly as the safe was closed and that the safe appeared
locked. However, a slight turn of the dial allowed the safe to
be reopened without using the combination.
A crook likely continues to look in ATMs for safes that are
not properly locked. Looking in an ATM does not set off
alarms. There are no signs of forced entry. If the crook looks
in an ATM that was locked correctly, he simply relocks the
access panel and leaves no trace of his intrusion. If the crook
looks in enough ATMs, he eventually finds an ATM that has
a combination dial that was not properly spun when the ATM
was locked. He then steals the cash canisters in seconds.
To prevent this type of theft from happening at your bank, you
can change your alarm system so that your employees must
enter a deactivation code before opening the ATM access panel
and/or safe. You can also install a new lock with a unique key
on the ATM access panel.
Of utmost importance, every bank
should train all of its employees to turn the combination
dial at least one full turn after locking the ATM safe.
Proper locking of the ATM safe can help prevent this type of
loss at your bank.
For more information, please give us a call at (785) 228-0000.