February 21, 2012, 1:57 PM — Banks may be where the money is, but if your interest is in taking what you can get whether it's yours or not, there are a lot of much simpler places to rob.
ATMs, for example, hold a lot of money, and are easier to crack than an actual bank.
If you like things a little more subtle, social engineering works, too. In March there was a spate of ATM robberies in which thieves used glue to disable the "Clear" and "Enter" keys on ATMs attached to a bank. Customers who put in their card and PIN got stuck, unable to use the keypad to enter their preferences, unable to get their cards back out.
When the customer went into the bank for help, the thieves slid in, freed the glued keys and had their way with the already-open bank accounts.
Card trapping offers a more techie approach in which thieves slide a mechanism to trap an ATM card into the machine's card slot. Later, playing the helpful stranger, the thief offers to help another customer whose card has been trapped, getting a look at the victim's PIN number along the way. After the customer leaves, the thief retrieves the card, the trap and the customer's money.
Card skimming is more technical and a lot cleaner (less human contact).
Card skimmers place magnetic-strip readers on ATMs near the card slot to record the account numbers of customers as they slide their cards in.
The FBI is prosecuting a pair of Bulgarian brothers it alleges ran a card-skimming scheme that let them steal more than $1 million from New York-area ATMs.
Thieves write the magnetic data they've stolen onto blank cards, and use the fakes to withdraw money or make purchases directly.