Dutch banks seek solutions to ‘much heavier’ spate of ATM bombings

Dutch banks are looking for new ways to stop explosives-based ATM thefts as the number of such crimes has skyrocketed in 2019, forcing lenders to close ATMs and suspend overnight withdrawals.

The number of ATM bombings rose to 71 in 2019 after falling from 87 in 2017 to 48 in 2018, NOS.nl reported on December 31. The chances of success of such attacks are very slim, but criminals will always try as long as there is a chance after which Dutch Banking Association NVB.

The association has been working with authorities on countermeasures since the first attacks in 2006, an NVB spokesman told S&P Global Market Intelligence. These were successful in limiting the chances of thieves actually getting away with the money.

In most cases there is no loot, but there is a lot of damage to machinery and buildings,” said the NVB.

The attacks have become “much more violent” with the use of more powerful explosives, which has had a huge impact on the safety of people living near an ATM, it said.

The association is working on further steps to prevent future attacks and make ATMs more secure. It searches for safe locations for the ATMs, and it is He was discussing a solution that would render cash worthless after an ATM bombing, the spokesman said.

In December 2019, the NVB decreed a temporary overnight closure of all ATMs, from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., which is still in effect. The measure is not expected to affect cash access and availability for bank customers, as only 2% of all ATM withdrawals were made overnight, the association said.

ABN Amro is the most affected

Dutch banking group ABN Amro Bank NV — which has experienced the most attacks, with 52 out of 71 ATM bombings in 2019 — announced on December 2 that it would temporarily close 470 of its 870 ATMs. It has since reopened about 20 and will soon reopen at least 100 more, a spokesman for the bank said.

It is replacing the damaged ATMs with new models and taking measures to secure the new machines that are accessible to customers outside, he said. For safety reasons, he did not provide any further information on the exact safety features of the new machines.

The old ATMs, which were targeted by criminals for having an explosives placement function, have all been decommissioned and are no longer used outdoors, the spokesman said. Some of them can be used in bank branches where there is extra security, he said.

ABN Amro has no estimate of the potential costs that will be incurred from the ongoing replacements, the spokesman said. Due to customer concerns, some local authorities may require machines to be moved to other non-residential locations, which is more costly than replacing them in their original location.

money mate

Meanwhile, some ABN Amro ATMs may not reopen at all as the bank recently entered into a new partnership with fellow Dutch banks ING Groep NV and Rabobank. In early 2019, the three joined forces to create a joint ATM network of brand-neutral ATMs called Geldmaat. This project will lead to a reduction in the existing number of ATMs, as Geldmaat estimates that there are currently around 3,000 ATM locations in the Netherlands that are too close together.

If an ING or Rabobank ATM is located near one of the affected ABN Amro ATMs, there is no need for ABN Amro to reopen it, ABN Amro spokesman said. He did not say exactly how many ATMs could disappear in the process.

The declining use of cash by the general public is one of the main reasons behind the Dutch banks’ merger. According to a December 3 Dutchnews.nl report, the number of ATMs in the Netherlands has fallen by 25% over the past decade, with cash withdrawals falling by 40%. Figures from the Dutch consumer association Consumentenverbond show that 62% of all payments in the Netherlands in 2018 were made via smartphone, versus 37% in cash.

Similarly, the four largest banks in Belgium – Belfius Banque SA, BNP Paribas Fortis SA, ING and KBC Group NV – joined forces in early January to create a neutral ATM network in the country, which has one of the highest ATM densities people in Europe.

Belgium also saw an increase in ATM bombings in 2019. According to the latest reported data, there were 22 attacks in the first 10 months of 2019, more than all of 2018.

Belgian authorities were on high alert and there were some closures of the country’s 14,000 ATMs. For example, in October 2019 Argenta Bank- en Verzekeringsgroep announced the indefinite closure of 364 ATMs as it faced a wave of “increasingly aggressive bombings”, NRC.nl reported at the time.

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