5 Ways to Spot a Hacked ATM


Look for Odd Protrusions Around the ATM

When you arrive at an ATM, look for any off-color plastic near the top of the machine. Anything there? Even an innocent-looking object that appears part of the ATM could be housing a tiny camera recording your keypad input [source: Walters]. Because they're better camouflaged than objects sitting in broad daylight, molded pieces can be designed to blend in with a specific ATM and hide a spy cam.

Even if it may blend in at first glance, take a second to study anything placed above the ATM. Does the color look a little off? Does it simply look out of place? Most telling would be a pinhole positioned above the keypad. Believe it or not, a tiny hole is enough for a camera to peek through and record dozens -- or hundreds -- of people every day entering their PINs. As we previously mentioned, remember to cover the pad as you input your PIN.

Unfortunately, cameras aren't the only tools at the ATM skimmer's disposal -- fake keypads can be used to record PIN inputs, too. Those can't be defeated by using your hand as a shield. But just as you may be able to notice an odd camera-hiding protrusion above the ATM, you may be able to tell that the keypad is unusually raised up around the surrounding ATM panel [source: Krebs]. If there's any evidence that the keypad has a fake overlay on top of it, steer clear of that ATM.

In extreme cases, the keypad may not be all that's fake -- some ATM skimmers use entire fake front panels to hide their electronics.