Smartphone is Key to Preventing ATM Thefts

SALAD FU HEAD SHOTS.jpgTheft of personal identification numbers (PINs) has become so common that it is usually only reported in the news if it occurs in your local area, as it did in our neighboring town of Margate, New Jersey in September 2015 (

By now, most people know that they need to be very careful in safeguarding the PINs associated with debit cards, including covering their hands at ATMs when entering their PIN to prevent thieves from capturing their information on hidden cameras. However, there are two preventative measures that are often overlooked.

First, customers may use the drive-through option or walk into a bank and avoid an ATM altogether. As a result of the banking industry’s efforts to increase staff and drive-through teller lanes, after-hour visits to banks are often as convenient as using an ATM.

The second involves your smartphone. If you have to use an ATM, you should check the ATM for unusual wireless transmissions. This can be performed by accessing the wireless network settings on your smart phone to see if the phone is picking up 3G, 4G, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi signals that are suspicious. Under normal circumstances, ATMs are generally located near convenience stores like Wawa or 7-Eleven. As such, seeing wireless signals entitled “Wawa Wireless” or “7-Eleven Data” can be expected. Issues arise when signals with uncommon and unexpected names like “Free2Move,” “MSR-60” or “Wincorp Nixdorf” are being transmitted near an ATM. The process of checking for suspicious signals takes a maximum of three movements on most smart phones, allowing you to proceed with your transaction with minimal inconvenience.

As ATM thieves become more sophisticated, use of traditional devices like cameras and telescopic lenses are becoming less common. Instead, thieves are now infiltrating ATMs through ATM technicians who install wireless devices which wirelessly “skim” your data in exchange for a fee. As such, your first line of defense against ATM thieves is to check for transmission of wireless signals around an ATM. As a general rule, the existence of multiple wireless networks around an ATM is highly suspicious. Therefore, you should avoid using such ATMs and alert your local police about the ATM.

Peter Fu is an attorney in Cooper Levenson’s Business & Tax and Cyber Risk Management practice groups. He concentrates his practice on sales and use tax, enterprise risk management, and commercial transactions. Peter is licensed to practice law in New Jersey, and is pending admission to Florida. Peter may be reached at 609.572.7556 or via e-mail at

Michael Salad is an attorney in Cooper Levenson’s Business & Tax and Cyber Risk Management practice groups. He concentrates his practice on estate planning, business transactions, mergers and acquisitions, tax matters and cyber risk management. Michael holds an LL.M. degree in Estate Planning and Elder Law. Michael is licensed to practice law in New Jersey, Florida and the District of Columbia. Michael may be reached at 609.572.7616 or via e-mail at