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Thefts of ATM Bank Machines on the Rise

Robberies involving A.T.M.s, or Automated Teller Cash Machines, are on the rise. In the Southwestern United States, law enforcement officials say there have been more than two dozen attempted thefts of ATM's by thieves using stolen heavy equipment.

Telephone caller to police: "Yeah, this is Chase Security, I've got a forklift stealing one of our ATMs right now."

Bank surveillance video shows the crime in progress as a stolen forklift rips an ATM machine off its foundation.

Sergeant Mark Clark with the Scottsdale, Arizona Police Department says it's a growing problem nationwide. "It seems to be the crime of choice right now. They are sticking the forks into the base of the ATM. They are lifting it off its foundations and then they are sticking it in the box truck and driving off with it."

In the past month, thieves have stolen ATMs from four Arizona cities. Some bank customers were surprised to learn at least 21 attempted robberies have occurred in Phoenix, Arizona.

And in some cases, hardly worthwhile. Bob Tramontano works for the NCR Corporation, which manufactures some of the ATMs. He says even the most skilled thieves often have trouble getting the cash inside. "They are absolutely very strong vaults. They are built to the same standards you have in a bank."

Even if the thieves succeed, the pay-off from small ATM machines can be as little as $200. Larger machines can yield up to $30,000 but Tramontano says those are often equipped with satellite tracking devices. "ATMs are deployed sometimes with GPS (Global Positioning System) on it so it is very easy to track the ATM should it get stolen."

Authorities hope surveillance video, such as the one where thieves on the upper left corner of the screen can be seen using a bulldozer, will lead to arrests. But Sgt. Clark believes there may be more than one group involved. "There's probably some copycat going on and there's varying levels of skill involved in these thefts."

Last month, a thief reprogrammed an ATM machine at a Virginia gas station to disburse higher denominations of cash. The crime was not discovered until a week later when a customer alerted a store employee.

Banking experts say cases of theft and fraud involving ATM machines are growing worldwide because the machines have become commonplace in almost every major city.