Wednesday, October 12, 2011

ATMs Security. How to Avoid Stealing Your Account Data or Money


ATM bank cash machines have been incorporated in our way of life. They offer a real convenience to those on the run, but at the same time offer an element of risk. Using a bank ATM machine safely requires awareness and a little planning. Just because a bank ATM machine is open and available 24-hours a day doesn't mean it is always safe to use it.

ATMs keep your personal identification number (PIN) and other information safe by using encryption software such as Triple DES (Data Encryption Standard). But there are lots of things that you can do to protect your information and your money at an ATM.

The more I get to know about ATM hackers, the less I want to use ATMs. Especially stan-alone ATMs.

Do you really want to know why? Just open some of the biggest websites for selling products (from example - eBay) and type in "ATM".
You will be amazed. Availability varies, but often you can find machines for sale that cost just a few hundred bucks.

Bad guys can buy these, get a computer programmer to rewrite the code and set them up just about anywhere to collect people's card information and PINs. Sometimes the machines actually dispense some cash, but often they're set up just to display an error message - after stealing your data.

Crooks can put skimmers over the card readers to suck up your data and record your PIN with miniature cameras. Some bad guys don't bother with the ATMs at all, instead putting the skimmer on the key card lock of the door that leads into an ATM.
But security procedures and video surveillance at banks usually mean these skimmers are detected fairly quickly. 

Here are some tips that can make your ATM transaction safer:

- Don't write down your PIN. If you must write it down, do not store it in your wallet or purse.

- Make your PIN a series of letters or numbers that you can easily remember, but that cannot easily be associated with you personally.

- Avoid using birth dates, initials, house numbers or your phone number.

- Store your ATM card in your purse or wallet, in an area where it won't get scratched or bent.

- Get your card out BEFORE you approach the ATM. You'll be more vulnerable to attack if you're standing in front of the ATM, fumbling through your wallet for your card.

- Stand directly in front of the ATM keypad when typing in your PIN. This prevents anyone waiting to use the machine from seeing your personal information.

- After your transaction, take your receipt, card and money away. Do not stand in front of the machine and count your money.

- If you are using a drive-up ATM, get your vehicle as close to the machine as possible to prevent anyone from coming up to your window. Also make sure that your doors are locked before you drive up to the machine.

- Do not leave your car running while using a walk-up ATM. Take your keys with you and lock the doors before your transaction.

- If someone or something makes you uncomfortable, cancel your transaction and leave the machine immediately. Follow up with your bank to make sure the transaction was cancelled and alert the bank to any suspicious people.

- Be suspicious of any stand-alone ATM. Yes, there are plenty of legitimate ones, but it can be tough for a layperson to tell which ones feed information to thieves rather than cash to you. You'll definitely want to avoid any ATM that isn't bolted to the side of a building or secured inside a facility. Real ATMs are heavy and have money safes, so they're not going to be easy to move. Also beware of stand-alone ATMs that advertise "no fees", since legitimate owners of stand-alone ATMs have to charge fees to make money.

- Avoid bank ATMs if the access door is broken. If you normally have to use your ATM card to unlock a door to get to the ATM and the lock is broken or the door is propped open, don't go in. Someone could have forced open the door to install a skimmer.

- Beware of "out of service" signs. If there are two ATMs and one has an "out of service" sign, it could be legit - or it could be trying to get you to use the other ATM, which has been compromised.

- Give the card slot a good yank. Put your hand on the slot where your card goes in and give it a push. A real one won't give way, while a skimmer often does. If the card slot looks strange at all, find another ATM.

- Report "malfunctions" immediately. If you get an error message instead of money, contact your bank right away. You're at much greater risk of fraud.

- Monitor your transaction activity. It doesn't matter how busy you are. You can still take a few minutes every week to log on to your accounts and look over your transactions. You'll want to report bogus transactions right away, since your liability for fraud is waived only if you spot the problems within a couple of months.

Yeah, pretty long list. But following the steps above, can protect yourself from stealing your bank account data or money.

For safety reasons, ATM users should seek out a machine that is located in a well-lighted public place. Federal law requires that only the last four digits of the cardholder's account number be printed on the transaction receipt so that when a receipt is left at the machine location, the account number is secure. However, the entry of your four-digit personal identification number (PIN) on the keypad should still be obscured from observation, which can be done by positioning your hand and body in such a way that the PIN entry cannot be recorded by store cameras or store employees. The cardholder's PIN is not recorded in the journal, but the account number is. If you protect your PIN, you protect your account.

Most bank ATM robberies occur at night between 7pm and midnight when the machine only produces 10% of the daily transactions. Between 7pm and 4am, the ATMs handle only 11% of the total daily transactions but suffer 60% of the crime.

Bank ATM robbers are usually males under 25 years of age and most work alone. ATM robbers usually position themselves nearby (50 feet) waiting for a victim to approach and withdraw cash. Half of the ATM robberies occur after the cash withdrawal. Many ATM robbery victims are women and were alone when robbed. Most claim that they never saw the robber coming. Most ATM robbers used a gun or claimed to have a concealed weapon when confronting the victim and demanding their cash.

Remember - always use safe places when taking cash from ATM. Taking money from bank ATM is the safest.
Avoid stand-alone ATMs. Avoid ATMs showing error messages.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Very intriguing story.
    We have to be careful where and how do we use ATMs.

    Scammers are really creative these days.

  3. I currently live in Thailand,and there are a lot of "stand-alone" ATM's scattered throughout the country. A few years ago there was a nationwide scam in which foreign ATM cards were temporarily unable to withdraw money from foreign bank accounts (lasting about 2 months). I was incredibly frustrated and even thought about asking a Thailand lawyer if there was anything I could do to get money from my bank account in the US, because I had no account in Thailand and was in need of money. I found out later that somehow a group was using the ATM security video to get the 4-digit pin codes of people when they used ATM machines. I suppose they were able to hack into the security camera of ATM's throughout Thailand and do this, but I'm not sure how.

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