How To Rob A Bank, As Told By An Actual Bank Robber

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Clay Tumey is a retired bank robber who claims he robbed so many he lost count. He plied his trade about a decade ago, served four years in prison, and is now a free man, out of the game and touting his tale of redemption. He’s doing a Reddit AMA today, and it sort of makes bank robbery sound easy.

Now, before you call bullshit, here’s the case document that proves Tumey is the real deal. But that doesn’t make his stories any less unbelievable, especially because his tactics were so casual.

Walked in the bank and waited in line like a regular customer. Whichever teller was available to help me is the one I robbed. I simply walked up to them when it was my turn to be helped, and I told them—usually via handwritten instructions on an envelope—to give me their $50s and $100s.

No mask, no gun, no threat. The banks did what he asked because that’s what they’re supposed to do.

I just told them what I wanted, and they complied. This is how it works in America because the amount of money a bank gives up ($5-$7k on average) per bank robbery is infinitely less than the amount of business they’d lose if shit got wild in a bank full of customers.

He was never even armed, either, so don’t be like Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon up there.

No. I strapped a hammer to my leg under my pants just below my knee in case I needed to break out of a locked door or something, but I never used a gun or anything like that.

Tumey says he’d rob banks around 3 p.m., when cops were changing shifts. Afterwards, he would go eat, usually at Chili’s or somewhere. Each robbery would make him around $5k, and he had some specific reasoning for asking for $50s and $100s:

I don’t know about today, but back then all of the marked bills, dye packs, and tracking stuff was in $20s, so I definitely didn’t want those. And $1s, $5s, and $10s were such a small denomination that they wouldn’t add up to much anyway. It wasn’t worth the extra time for them to get everything out of their drawer.

Also, if someone else noticed the teller clearing out their drawer, it might look weird and trigger some sort of response. Getting out a bunch of $50s and $100s, however, seemed to be the quickest way and drew no attention from other tellers.

But how the hell did he get away?

Getaway was crucial. I only robbed banks that were in parking lots or something like that with other businesses around. I parked my truck out of view from the bank so nobody could see what I was getting into.

Or not get caught?

I never told anyone what I was doing. One of the main things I learned from research was that an overwhelming number of people are caught because they didn’t do it solo. So I never let anyone (not even my wife or best friend) know what I was doing.

And how did he prepare?

I researched for about five or six months prior to my first one. I studied mostly the things that people did to get caught, and I just tried to plan around those things. It’s hard to know how people get away since those details rarely make it to the news, but studying how people get caught was incredibly helpful in knowing what to avoid.

Once I did my first bank, very little planning was needed for subsequent banks. I never really scoped out a particularly location other than to make sure there was parking that was out of view from the bank.

Tumey eventually turned himself in, went to prison and served his time, “found himself,” and is now writing a book and sharing his story. He’s Kickstarter-ing the thing, if you feel so moved to help. You also have to wonder ... how do you really know he’s retired? [Reddit]