Do ATMs Have GPS?

Do ATMs have GPS? Should yours?

Thieves go where the money is. Unfortunately, that puts a target on your ATM machines. However, there are many ways to mitigate your vulnerability and loss. As criminals get more creative and more bold, more precautions are taken and security measures implemented. So which are right for you?

No ATM business looks the same. Some independent ATM deployers (IADs) operate one machine, others have entire fleets. Some machines are busier and more profitable than others. And machines are in a variety of locations with a variety of potential threats.

So when deciding which security measures are right for you, there are a number of factors to consider. Location, placement, ATM type, and budget are a few. 

If you want to know do ATMs have GPS, the answer is yes. Do all ATMs? No. GPS tracking is an added feature that ATM operators can spring for just like any other security feature or add-on. 

In this article, we’ll explain what GPS tracking looks like and list some other security options you might want to consider. 

How Does GPS Tracking Work?

GPS tracking works just like you’d expect. The tracking device is mounted to the machine and location data allows the machine to be recovered in the event of a theft. However, there are a few other ways this can work:

In addition to informing ATM owners and law enforcement of a machine’s location, some GPS systems will also trigger a silent alarm if the machine is jostled or tilted. They can also send emails and other real-time notifications. This allows ATM owners to act quicker, retrieve their property sooner, and prevent further damage or theft.

Geofencing is another security feature that creates an electrical “fence” around a specified perimeter. Then, the owner is notified if an ATM machine breaches this electrical barrier without authorization.

Cassette trackers are also an option. Thieves might be able to break into an ATM machine and access the cash cassettes without removing the machine itself. Then, an ATM tracker would be useless, but the cassette tracker can help locate the criminals who take off with them.

Do I Need a GPS Tracker?

GPS tracking helps deter crime, recuperate property and cash, and apprehend offenders. The longer property goes unrecovered, the less likely it is to be discovered. That’s why it’s important to act fast. Knowing when a crime is taking place gives you a head start. 

Thieves who take off with entire ATM machines could be tracked and arrested before they are even able to break into the vault. This quick action could prevent you from losing hundreds of dollars of cash.

The benefits of GPS tracking are clear. But there are many other factors you should consider.

Cost

GPS tracking systems can be expensive. In many cases, ATM owners not only purchase the GPS tracking gadgets, but the companies that sell them also provide human support in the event of a theft, and that service costs money as well. 

For this reason, it’s more common for bank ATMs to have GPS trackers. They have more money to spend on security systems, and they can justify the cost a little easier than an IAD. 

Bank ATMs are bigger targets because the higher cash levels equal a bigger reward for thieves, and they are always stocked. Independently owned ATM machines have lower cash stores and are emptied at closing (or at least should be) to prevent after hours ATM robbery.

Location

If you are still wondering if you should invest in GPS tracking, consider the location of your ATMs. Are they in high-crime, large, metropolitan areas? These are the areas where ATM crimes are the highest. If your ATMs aren’t in a large city, you might not need such advanced security.

Placement

Are your ATM machines indoors or outdoors? Outdoor and other 24/7 ATM machines have a greater risk of theft because they are vulnerable during high-risk hours—between midnight and 4am. Indoor ATM machines also have other safeguards and obstacles like doors, walls, furniture, and alarms. 

Consider what security measures are already in place where your machine is located and in surrounding areas. GPS tracking only helps you during or after a crime. So your first line of defense is precautions to deter criminals and prevent crime.

Other Security Measures

There are many security measures you can take to protect your ATM machine and prevent the need for GPS tracking. You want to make sure you have eyes on your machine as often as possible. Make good decisions about who has access to the machine. And make it difficult for criminals to access; you don’t want your machine to be an easy target….

Strategic Placement

First of all, place your machine strategically. Try to place it away from doors and windows that could be points of ingress after hours. If that’s not possible, make sure it’s in view of security cameras at your location or of cameras nearby. 

Barriers and Obstacles

Create physical barriers and obstacles for criminals (while leaving a clear path for customers). Keep the front free for customers, but try to protect the sides with walls or other furniture. This will make the machine more difficult to get to, especially for hackers who might try to launch a logical attack via the electronics. We also recommend bolting your machine into the floor. 

Updated Software

Keeping your software updated also helps protect you from logical attacks. Outdated software is easier to hack and manipulate. If a criminal has to be with your machine for more than a couple of minutes, he or she will likely just move on.

Strategic Vaulting Procedures

Be strategic with your vaulting procedures, too. Keep an irregular schedule that makes robberies hard to predict and plan. Limit the number of people who have access to the machine (theft can come from within your business as well). And empty the vault after hours, like a cash register, and keep the door open to deter money-grabbers.

Pre Existing Security

The building where your machine is located might already have a number of security features in place, too. If the building itself is protected, your machine is less vulnerable. Consider security cameras, alarm systems, barred windows, etc.

Remote Online Monitoring

If you work with an ATM company like ATM Depot, you have access to remote online ATM monitoring. This allows you to have “eyes” on your machine at all times. Once you are familiar with what a regular day looks like for your ATM machine, you will be able to spot suspicious activity (too many withdrawals in proximity, too large of withdrawals).

You might even have a camera on your machine so that you can literally monitor your ATM activity remotely. Advertise that the machine is under surveillance (Smile! You’re on camera!) to deter criminals as well. 

ATM Insurance

And of course, for peace of mind, consider investing in ATM insurance. That way, in the worst case scenario, you are covered. 

Why Do ATMs Have GPS?

Some ATM machines now have GPS trackers installed. This allows the owner to alert authorities immediately in the event of a theft. And subsequently, it allows the authorities to recover the property and make an arrest. 

Therefore, ATM machines that have a higher chance of being stolen or broken into benefit from being able to locate the property and cash. In some cases, property may be recovered even before the criminals break into the vault. 

GPS tracking systems can protect your ATM machines. But so can bolts, cameras, alarms, and physical obstacles. Choose the security features that make sense for your business and fit your budget. Coordinate with the location owner to create strategies that protect the entire store. And most importantly, don’t be an easy target!

ATM Robbery: How Common Is It?

Although ATM robbery has drastically increased in recent years, it’s still relatively rare when you consider the large number of ATM machines in operation. However, there are many precautions you can take to protect yourself and your business from theft, vandalism, and loss.

How Common is ATM Robbery?

ATM robbery used to be a lot less common. However, it’s no surprise that in light of Covid-19 and other instances of civil and economic unrest, crime in general has increased. More people are becoming more desperate and criminals are becoming more bold. 

While the number of ATM thefts reported by the FBI between 2016 and 2019 were under 50, they climbed to 254 in 2021. However, the skyrocketing ATM thefts are linked to major metropolitan areas, and you have to consider that bank ATMs are included in these numbers. 

Bank ATMs can hold as little as $40,000 and as much as $250,000. So they are more worth the effort and the risk involved. On the other hand, bank ATMs are also well-monitored. This could push criminals to try their luck at independent ATM machines that might have less security. 

Therefore, it’s important that you take necessary steps to prevent ATM robbery and other ATM crimes that could arise. Fortunately, there are actions you can take that deter criminals altogether. Keep in mind, though, that certain locations and situations require different security measures. So think about your specific location and needs while making security decisions.

ATM Crimes

ATM crimes can present themselves in a number of ways. First of all, there is a slight distinction between ATM robbery and ATM theft. ATM robbery implies that cash is stolen while ATM theft suggests removal of the entire machine.

ATM Theft 

Some pretty drastic tactics can be involved in ATM theft. You might have heard of criminals using 

  • crowbars to pry off ATM covers (also known as “smash and grabs” and also known to look a lot less neat and organized than a simple crowbar pry….).
  • hook, chain, and high-powered trucks to yank ATM machines out of walls.
  • explosives to breach or dislodge ATM machines.

The bright side in all of this is that these situations typically don’t directly threaten human victims. Theft is between the criminal and the machine. Robberies, however, get a little more personal.

ATM Robberies

ATM robbery is scary because it could happen to anyone. You or your vaulter could be robbed while loading or unloading the machine. Or your customers could be robbed while making withdrawals. The employees of the business where your ATM is located could be pressured to access the ATM machine. 

While there are a number of steps you can take to protect yourself and your employees or partners from ATM robbery, there are some tips for ATM customers as well.

For example, most ATM robberies occur at night (between the hours of 12am and 4am). Therefore, try to make your withdrawals from a well-lit location in plain view of the public if you need to make a withdrawal in the dark. Most ATM robberies also involve one offender and one victim. So, there is safety in numbers, even at the ATM. 

Additionally, don’t count or carry your withdrawal out in the open. Quickly stash it and retrieve it in a secure location. Finally, don’t risk your life for a few hundred dollars. You might be strapped, but trust us, your life is worth more, so don’t try to fight or apprehend a robber to get your cash back!

Vandalism and Fraud

In addition to stealing ATM machines and vaulted or withdrawn cash, criminals can also launch electronic attacks. This is why it’s important to regularly check your machine for vandalism. 

While “shoulder surfers” can glean a customers’ PIN numbers by standing a little too close to them, hackers typically mess with the machine itself to access this sensitive information. For example, pinhole cameras, fake fronts, skimmers and shimmers, counterfeit PIN pads, and Lebanese Loops can be installed on ATM machines and be almost undetectable to the untrained (or unaware) eye.

Fortunately, if you know what to look for, you can see a pinhole camera, feel a fake front, and see signs of skimmers. On the other hand, you might not notice a logical attack.

A logical attack involves access to the mainboard or other electronics of an ATM machine to gain control or cause it to malfunction. This could allow a criminal to gain access to ATM cash via seemingly legitimate withdrawal processes.

Keep reading to find out what you can do to combat both physical and local attacks.

How To Prevent ATM Crime

To minimize the risk of crime involving your ATM machine, you’ll want to predict vulnerabilities and set up barriers. Make things difficult for criminals. Successful attacks can take only three minutes. Attackers aren’t going to want to spend a lot of time at your machine, so if they run into obstacles, they are more likely to move on or target a more vulnerable location.

Keep Eyes on Your Machine as Much as Possible

The first thing you want to do is be strategic with your placement. This is sometimes easier to do with indoor locations as you have four walls to work within. If your machine is outdoors, your options might be limited. However, make sure the area is well-lit and in plain view of witnesses such as cameras, high-traffic streets, or locations that are open late or 24 hours.

Don’t Keep the Machine Loaded After Hours

Second, treat your machine like a cash register if you can. Unload the machine as part of the closing process. If you place your machine where it can be seen from a door or window after hours, leave the ATM door open after vaulting. There’s no need to break into a machine that’s visibly empty.

Create Obstacles

Third, make your machine difficult to get to or access. Keep the front and path leading to your machine clear for customers, of course, but bolt your machine to the ground when possible and try to arrange shelves or other furniture alongside the machine. 

Minimizing access points helps prevent physical as well as logical attacks. You don’t want someone to be able to get into the electrical system through a panel of your machine and cause it to malfunction in the hacker’s favor. Consider the top of your machine as a potential ingress point as well. You can fill the seams or create an internal barrier between the case and the critical electrical components to protect them.

Remember, the goal is to create barriers. Criminals won’t spend long trying to overcome obstacles. 

Regularly Update Software

Outdated software makes logical attacks easier for hackers. Updates typically include modern safeguards. Attackers will be able to identify outdated software, so make sure you keep it up-to-date.

Work with People You Trust

Unfortunately, theft can happen internally, too. Make sure you trust the location owner, employees, and third parties. Limit who has access to your machine; the less the better.

Check Your Machine Frequently

Unattended, low-traffic ATM machines are more likely to be targeted. Therefore, non-bank ATMs typically have a greater risk of being tampered with. Each time you visit your machine, run your hand over the body. Look for loose, bulky, or foreign parts. Anything unusual could indicate that your machine has been tampered with, putting your customers at risk of fraud.

Use GPS Trackers

GPS tracking is more likely to help you after the event of an attack rather than preventing one. These devices won’t be visible, so if a robber is successful, you or the police will be more likely to apprehend the culprit and recover your assets.

Invest in ATM Insurance

The only thing insurance will prevent is worry. Investing in ATM insurance can give you peace of mind knowing that you are protected financially in a worst case scenario. Having insurance will hopefully encourage you to let your assets go if you are victimized and have to fight the urge to struggle with an attacker.

Should Vaulters Be Armed?

We do not recommend that you arm yourself when loading or unloading your machine. One of the biggest problems with this is that if you do end up using your weapon, there will be more consequences and complications. There are other, safer precautions you can take to protect yourself. 

First of all, don’t vault your machine at night. This is when criminals are the most active and when there will be less witnesses and natural protection. Furthermore, don’t stick to a regular, predictable vaulting schedule. You don’t want to give someone the opportunity to plan a robbery.

Make sure there is surveillance. You can install your own cameras or just be sure you place your machine in line with the cameras of your location or surrounding locations. To help deter criminals, consider putting a sign up that advertises that the machine is under video surveillance.

Also be aware of who is around when you vault. If your machine is indoors, make sure a manager or employee is around while you vault rather than disappearing to the back. You can vault after hours as well to minimize the level of foot traffic while you are vulnerable. If you vault after hours, it’s best to do so away from windows or points of ingress where passersby can see your activity.

If you still feel unsure, and if you do live in a major metropolitan area, you might see if you can arrange for an armed officer to accompany you to your drops. Again, we don’t recommend that you take the law into your own hands. Smart decisions are your first line of defense.

Be Proactive Against ATM Robbery

This information about ATM robbery isn’t meant to scare you. On the contrary, it’s meant to empower you. The more you know, the more prepared you will be, and the more confident you will feel. 

Although ATM crime has risen in the past couple of years, crime in general has risen, so it isn’t unexpected. The number of reported incidents is still minor compared to the number of ATMs in operation, and bank ATMs are frequently targeted because larger vaults equal bigger payouts. 

In our many years of experience, we have never personally heard of an independent ATM deployer getting held up or mugged. And, being in the ATM business, that’s saying something!

Still have questions? Contact us today!