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How is ATM Hacking Prevented?

By Jennifer Voight
Updated: May 16, 2024

Financial institutions prevent ATM hacking through numerous measures. This can include changing default administrator passwords and by regularly inspecting ATMs for fraudulent devices designed to capture customer information. Other security measures such as well-lit locations and cameras help, too. Customers can further prevent ATM hacking by being aware of surroundings and refusing to use an ATM if it seems suspicious.

ATMs (automated teller machines) are convenient for bank customers, but they are also becoming convenient places for thieves to collect customer bank card information for identity theft crimes. Most ATM hacking happens when a thief installs a portable card reader and camera on an ATM or peeks when the customer enters passwords.

Some ATM hackers insert a card reader into the ATM card reader and mount a tiny camera behind the security mirror. They gather card information from the magnetic strip on the card when the customer inserts an ATM card into the false front card slot. ATM hackers gather password information through a hidden pinhole camera pointed at the keypad. Some thieves bypass the camera and install an overlay on the keypad that transmits punched numbers to a laptop or Bluetooth.

Before using an ATM, customers should check for any loose parts on the console, false fronts, or anything that looks out of place. Many false front card readers match the ATM and are nearly undetectable. The card should slide easily into the card reader, and resistance could indicate a portable reader. If the ATM seems suspicious, it should be reported to the bank manager.

Banks are taking action against ATM hacking by installing anti-skimmers. These devices emit an electromagnetic field that blocks the fraudulent card reader signal so the thief cannot collect card information. Anti-skimmer sensors detect foreign objects mounted to the ATM and trigger a silent alarm.

ATM hackers may bypass skimming customer information by hacking the machine itself. A thief who gains access to the administrative password may program the machine to dispense $20 bills when it thinks it is dispensing $5 bills. Banks can prevent ATM hacking by changing the default password in new ATM machines to prevent criminals from guessing the password.

The safest ATMs are in well-lit, heavily populated areas, or in stores where crowds make it harder for thieves to install skimming devices without being detected. Customers should always check for bystanders when withdrawing money and shield the keypad when entering password information. ATM users should always check bank statements carefully and question unfamiliar charges.

EasyTechJunkie is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By EricRadley — On Aug 07, 2011

@LTimmins - That's good to know. Would it help to also change the PIN number once in a while? I know they suggest that with email passwords and other computer passwords. I think it's more of a process to change a PIN number though, right?

By LTimmins — On Aug 06, 2011

@amysamp - One way to stay safe is by covering the keypad with one hand while you punch in your PIN number. If there is an overlay on the keypad, this won't help, but it will prevent hidden camera from viewing your code.

It's also good to regularly check your bank account(s). If there are any strange discrepancies, you'll be aware of them instantly and can report them to your banks fraud/security department.

By yseult — On Aug 05, 2011

@amysamp - ATM hacking is actually quite a common occurrence, especially at places like gas pumps (where you enter in your debit card number right where you pump the gas) and other similar places. There have even been a few cases where employees of those stores had set up the ATM machines to read customers' PIN numbers.

By bluespirit — On Aug 05, 2011

@amysamp - Unless you have your PIN number for your ATM card somewhere obvious on your computer such as a saved document entitled "Important passwords and numbers" then you are limited as to what you can do.

This is because your PIN number is on the bank's system. Therefore, it is up to the bank to have maximum security measures for your personal information such as your PIN.

And if you do have your information saved on your computer, I heard a very simple precaution in protecting your laptop which also holds a lot of your personal information in general (for example, you may have had certain websites remember your username and password).

This precaution is simply not to have your laptop or laptop bag in view in your car. Put your laptop or laptop bag in the trunk of your car.

By amysamp — On Aug 04, 2011

I have ever heard of someone hacking into an ATM but I am assuming from the fact this article exists that it has happened. With so much access to people's information or money through technology, I am not surprised it is has happened.

It is nice to know to be aware of one more way I can be safe regarding my personal information and money, so I enjoyed the tips in this article.

I know personal information theft is a common crime on the internet. Does anyone have any tips for this that might stop someone from hacking into information and finding my PIN and therefore my account via ATM?

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