5 Ways to Spot a Hacked ATM

Study and Jiggle the Card Slot
Beware of a fake card reader that might have been placed over the actual card reader.
Beware of a fake card reader that might have been placed over the actual card reader.

Here's the final, major step you can take to protect yourself from ATM skimmers -- be wary of the card slot. Fake card readers will swipe and record the personal data on your debit card. If thieves also obtain your PIN number, your debit card has been compromised. Because the fake card readers have to fit over the original slot, there are a few ways you can check for them.

If the slot seems to be protruding further out from the ATM than it should, rock it back and forth. Does it seem attached or too flimsy? If it's wiggly, it might be a fake add-on [source: ClarkHoward.com]. Again, our previous tips could help out here, too. Does the card slot match the instructions on the face of the ATM? If there are identical ATMs nearby, glance at them. Do they share the same card slot design?

In the event you ever discover a card skimmer, don't just flee the ATM for safer pastures. There's no telling how many people could fall victim to a skimming scheme until the foreign devices are discovered by someone else. If the ATM is at a bank, informing a bank employee is the easiest solution. Even if the bank isn't familiar with card skimmers, they can still shut the ATM down. If you're not at a bank, check the face of the ATM and its display screen for a contact number. If the installer can be contacted, they can alert the proper authorities and take care of the skimmer.

Remember, ATM thieves need access to both your PIN and the personal information stored on the magnetic strip of your debit card to access your account. By protecting your PIN and staying observant every time you use an ATM -- keeping an eye out for hidden cameras, fake panels and card readers -- you'll hopefully keep your money safe, and out of the hands of thieves who steal more than $1 billion annually through credit card and ATM fraud [source: Siciliano].

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More Great Links


  • ADT. "ADT Anti-Skimâ„¢ ATM Security Solutions." (Oct. 6, 2010). http://www.adt.com/medium_large_business/security_solutions/solutions_by_industry?wgc=financial_institutions/anti-skim
  • ClarkHoward.com. "ATM skimmer scam back with increased sophistication." July 27, 2010. (Oct. 13, 2010). http://clarkhoward.com/liveweb/shownotes/2010/07/27/18931/
  • Gammon, Katharine. "ATMs by the Numbers." Aug. 24, 2009. (Oct. 6, 2010). http://www.wired.com/culture/culturereviews/magazine/17-09/st_atms
  • Gardiner, Sean. "$217,000 'Skimmed' From ATMs." June 9, 2010. (10/5/2010). http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703302604575295082741170878.html
  • Krebs, Brian. "ATM Skimmers, Part II." Feb. 2, 2010. (Oct. 5, 2010). http://krebsonsecurity.com/2010/02/atm-skimmers-part-ii/
  • Krebs, Brian. "Fun With ATM Skimmers, Part III. May 7, 2010. (Oct. 5, 2010). http://krebsonsecurity.com/2010/05/fun-with-atm-skimmers-part-iii/
  • Krebs, Brian. "Would You Have Spotted the Fraud?" Jan. 15, 2010. (Oct. 5, 2010). http://krebsonsecurity.com/2010/01/would-you-have-spotted-the-fraud/
  • McCullagh, Declan. "Security researcher demonstrates ATM hacking." July 28, 2010. (Oct. 4, 2010). http://news.cnet.com/8301-1009_3-20012019-83.html
  • Patton, Phil. "The Bucklands Boys and Other Tales of the ATM." (Oct. 6, 2010). http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/1.05/atm_pr.html
  • Poulsen, Kevin. "Former Con Man Helps Feds Thwart Alleged ATM Hacking Spree." May 4, 2010. (Oct. 4, 2010). http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/05/thor/
  • Schultz, Jennifer Saranow. "How to Spot an A.T.M. Skimming Device." June 9, 2010. (Oct. 5, 2010). http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/09/how-to-spot-an-a-t-m-skimming-device/
  • Schwartz, John. "Researchers See Privacy Pitfalls in No-Swipe Credit Cards." Oct. 23, 2006. (Oct. 6, 2010). http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/23/business/23card.html?_r=2
  • Siciliano, Robert. "ATM Skimming Identity Theft Reaches $1 Billion in Losses." Sept. 9, 2009. (Oct. 6, 2010). http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-siciliano/atm-skimming-identity-the_b_280100.html
  • Siciliano, Robert. "NY ATMs Get Whacked: How Secure Are You and That ATM Transaction?" June 10, 2010. (Oct. 6, 2010). http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-siciliano/ny-atms-get-whacked-how-s_b_606019.html
  • Walters, Chris. "Here's What A Card Skimmer Looks Like On An ATM." April 19, 2009. (Oct. 5, 2010). http://consumerist.com/2009/04/heres-what-a-card-skimmer-looks-like-on-an-atm.html
  • Zetter, Kim. "Video: Bank Customers Foil ATM Skimmer." Sept. 24, 2010. (Oct. 6, 2010). http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/09/skimming-video/


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