Arizona authorities are calling it a rash of "slash and dash": Thieves are hot-wiring heavy construction equipment and using it to scoop up ATMs.
Surveillance video of one theft shows a forklift pulling up to an ATM and ripping the vault out of its foundation, along with the cash inside.
"It seems to be the crime of choice now. They are sticking the forks into the base of the ATM. They are lifting it off its foundations, and then they are sticking it in the box truck and driving off with it," said Sgt. Mark Clark of the Scottsdale, Ariz., police department.
In the last month, thieves have stolen ATMs from four Arizona cities. There have been 21 attempted thefts in the Phoenix area alone this year. But Arizona is not alone. Authorities say ATM theft has become a nationwide problem.
Easy to Lift, Hard to Withdraw
Forklifts can carry off ATMs, but getting to the cash inside isn't as easy as it looks.
Even the most skilled thieves are often unable to crack the vault. And if they do get in, they may find stealing the machine wasn't worth the trouble.
"The thieves are thinking they are getting a whole lot more money than they get when they get them open," Clark said.
Sometimes, they pocket as little as a couple hundred dollars.
"The machines with the least amount of security often have the least amount of cash," said Bob Tramontano of the NCR Corp.
The payoff can be bigger on heavily fortified, 2,000-pound machines -- as much as $30,000.
But even then, thieves aren't home free. Big ATMs can be equipped with tracking systems, making them easy to find on the run.
"ATMs are deployed sometimes with GPS [Global Positioning System] on it, so it is very easy to track the ATM should it get stolen," Tramontano said.