7News Investigates: ‘Jackpotting’ Crime Wave Hits Mass. ATMs

(WHDH) — ATM machines under attack. Criminals getting away with huge stacks of cash, hacking ATMs so they spit out cash rapid-fire – at a speed of more than $2,000 per minute.

It’s called jackpotting, and it’s a nationwide crime wave that’s now hitting banks in Massachusetts – and investigators in the U.S. have never seen anything like it.

“The scam itself could take under ten minutes to completely liquidate all of the cash in the ATM,” said Robert Siciliano, security analyst with Hotspot Shield.

A 7News investigation has found ATMs in Ludlow, Attleboro, Danvers and the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston have recently been targeted by criminal jackpotters.

Siciliano showed 7News how it works.

The suspects often dress as repairmen so they don’t attract attention. They pry open or simply unlock the ATM, and then infect its hard drive with malware.

“Now they can manipulate the machine any way they want,” Siciliano said.

After a few clicks of a keyboard, the ATM empties itself of every bill inside.

Criminal jackpotting attacks were virtually unheard of in the U.S. until last May. Now, the Secret Service says there have been at least 124 attacks since then nationwide, including the four attacks 7News uncovered which took place right here in Massachusetts.

More than a dozen jackpotting suspects have been arrested coast to coast since January. Court documents show that in Washington state, investigators say one suspect got away with more than $267,000 in just four days.

“They’ll hit an area, and then move on to another area,” said Matt O’Neill, Supervisory Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

O’Neill said some of the attacks are likely being coordinated by a larger, international criminal network. 7News found that most of the suspects are citizens of Venezuela.

“Because it is such a well-coordinated attack, we feel like we need to devote the necessary resources to put a stop to it immediately,” O’Neill said.

Siciliano said ATM operators need to do more to make their hardware and software more secure.

Otherwise, “You’ll see this spread like wildfire throughout the country,” Siciliano said.

Nationally, the Secret Service says criminals have already jackpotted more than $3.5 million and counting.

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