ATMs Reprogrammed to Cough Up Extra Cash

More than $140,000 stolen from altered machines, authorities say.

By Charlie Wojciechowski
|  Thursday, Feb 17, 2011  |  Updated 10:15 PM CDT
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ATMs Reprogrammed to Cough Up Extra Cash

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Police are investigating numerous incidents of unauthorized use of ATM cards.

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They were brazen robberies in hotels just off Michigan Avenue.  But in most cases, nobody knew they were happening because the thieves weren’t targeting guests, they were targeting ATM machines.

Authorities said Thursday that more than $140,000 has been stolen since December of 2010 from private cash machines installed by Maryland-based ATM Systems.

The thieves used special codes to reprogram the machines to spit out more money than they should during a single transaction.

"When you asked for a hundred, instead of five twenties, it gave you a hundred twenties," explained George McDade, the Chairman of Cook County Crime Stoppers.

After their fraudulent transactions, McDade said the robbers would return the machines to their normal state.

"No one would know there was ever anything wrong," he said.

ATM systems said the heists are likely an inside job. Account executive Mark Gregory said the menus on all of the company's machines, which often are placed in hotel lobbies, have been permanently altered so that they can’t be tampered with again.

He stressed that no customer lost any money as a result of the scheme. ATM Systems, however, is on the hook for the $140,000 taken so far.

Surveillance cameras have captured images of at least three different men reprogramming the ATMs, and CrimeStoppers is offering a $1000 reward for each individual eventually charged by police.

Anyone with information about the crimes or the people responsible can call CrimeStoppers at 1-800-535-STOP.

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