5 Ways to Spot a Hacked ATM


Study the Instructions and Diagrams on the ATM Panel

Amazingly, some thieves go as far as replicating large portions of ATM machines. A big piece of plastic fitted over the front of the ATM can obscure the data-stealing electronics. Behind these panels, the police often find magnetic strip readers and storage devices for recording the data of every card slotted into the ATM [source: Krebs]. Smart thieves will model these molds to closely match the original ATM, but the replica may not be perfect.

The better the replica, the harder it will be to distinguish from the real thing. Taking a few seconds to study the ATM could make all the difference, though. If you notice odd discrepancies between the printed directions on the face of the ATM, strange color shifts between portions of plastic, or the kind of bulging that could indicate a fake panel, it wouldn't hurt to switch to a different teller machine. If two identical units are placed side-by-side, compare them -- do the diagrams and images match?

While some thieves use entire front panels to try to mask their handiwork, others opt for a smaller-scale approach: false card readers slipped innocently over the real debit card slot.