Thieves stole a bitcoin ATM installed in Oudenbosch, Netherlands last Wednesday by lifting and carrying it away. With bitcoin’s high prices attracting newcomer crooks as well as investors, it’s unclear if the thieves really understood what they were stealing.
Bitcoin is a virtual currency, which thieves would not be able to access simply by stealing the machine, the owner said. The ATM had operated at the Tivoli Brasserie in Oudenbosch since 2014. Thieves stole only the bitcoin machine, and nothing else.
Herman Vissia, owner of the machine said: “Bitcoins are virtual coins, so I think it’s logical that they do not get out of the machine. They would have thought they hit a jackpot with a full-blown machine.”
Customers buy BTC by feeing paper cash in the machine, so it’s possible that’s what the thieves were really after. Still, bitcoin ATMs don’t process the kind of transaction volumes bank machines do — even in cash, the takings were probably not worth the physical effort.
“What an Idiot” Says ATM Owner
The ATM was run by Byecoin, a popular bitcoin ATM operator. The company has two available machines, one at Oudenbosch (which got stolen) and the other at Eindhoven. Vissia said “What an idiot”, referring to the actions of the thieves. He found the whole act foolish, and had a laugh over it, according to the local press.
Vissia believes it would take three people to lift the Lamassu machine — as it weighs around 265 lbs (120 kg). Hence, he is certain that three or more robbers carried out the theft.
Along with regular people, all types of criminals are gaining interest in cryptocurrencies. Physical theft is a new addition to the existing long list of hackers, phishing websites, investment scams, and dummy wallets that aim to steal bitcoin and other digital currencies.
Since bitcoins don’t exist in the physical world, they’re actually much harder to steal than cash, gold or diamonds. Muggings associated with local P2P trades are more likely to involve victims being relieved of hard cash, than BTC.
No Bitcoins in the Machine
In Vissia’s opinion, the thieves would have completely dismantled the bitcoin ATM. He said: “They will have broken it completely to get the contents out.” He added, “At the new vending machine they place a sign which will read — There are no bitcoins in here!”
Bitcoin ATMs are often connected online to a third-party exchange — the machine itself does not hold the private keys. Even if they did, cracking the machine open wouldn’t give you access to them.
A similar incident occurred in India just a couple of months before. The thieves, who possibly couldn’t read, actually stole a passbook printing machine instead of ATM.
Either the Dutch thieves were foolish too, or they were after the cash — which they could have probably stolen much easier elsewhere. These capers are reminiscent of the notorious scene in Breaking Bad, where two drug addicts haul a bank ATM to their living room but are unable to open it. It ends gruesomely.
Could you actually steal a bitcoin ATM for profit, or is it not worth the trouble? Tell us what you think in the comments.
Images via Lamassu, Tivoli Brasserie