The thefts — which took place over the course of several hours — occurred at ATMs around the world, the Associated Press reports.
In all, machines in 27 countries were pilfered, authorities report. Hackers broke into bank databases, altered or eliminated withdrawal limits on pre-paid debit cards and created codes to allow them to take money from the machines. Another group encoded bank account info on different cards — used hotel keys and such — that could then be used in the ATMs.
Groups of people then used the cards to withdraw money from as many machines as possible before the banks noticed the unusual behavior. The members of the groups that performed the actual withdrawals received a percentage of the money while the rest was forwarded to the heist’s masterminds.
Seven people in New York have been arrested for participating in the scheme. All seven were part of the local group performing withdrawals.
“Unfortunately these types of cybercrimes involving ATMs, where you’ve got a flash mob going out across the globe, are becoming more and more common,” former federal prosecutor Rose Romero said.