ATM thieves withdrawal more pain than gain


In this country, ATM crime usually involves a thief accosting an individual why he's using the machine. In South Africa the game is much more serious.

Last year almost 500 ATMs were blown up with explosives. Now the banks are fighting back. In 11 of the worst locations, the ATMs have been outfitted with pepper spray.

The ATM is programmed to watch the activity of the user through its camera, and when it detects someone tampering with the card slot, it shoots out a dose of pepper spray to temporarily incapacitate him until the police can arrive.

I suppose this is another step in the evolution that began with dye packs in stacks of cash stolen in a bank holdup.

The pepper spray system is not yet idiot-proof, however. A bank spokesperson confessed that at one location the pepper spray was inadvertently released during a test. Fortunately, there were no customers at the machine at that time, but the spray did spread out into the shopping mall where it was located.

My suggestion (yes, a bit tongue-in-cheek; for now)? Wear safety goggles when visiting the ATM. Who knows how soon this tech will reach the U.S.? And who knows how long before our criminals start dynamiting machines?

Originally published