How Your ATM Cards are Hacked in Pakistan & How to Stay Safe [Guide]

ATM hacking incidents have been in the news in Pakistan these days as hundreds of ATM card holders found their accounts empty without their knowledge and consent, causing an accumulated loss of around Rs. 100 million due to ATM card hacking attempts.

In case you are wondering how these ATM machines are hacked and how to avoid such hacked machines, then this information is for you.

How ATM Machines are Hacked

ATM hacking is actually called ATM skimming — that’s duplicating your ATM card — and it has been around for quite a while. These recent ATM hacking attempts are not first of its kind in Pakistan, as previously we came across some similar incidents but marginal in number and a smaller amount of money was stolen.

In an ATM hacking, there are two steps involved:

  • Copying your ATM card
  • Stealing your ATM PIN

Copying Your ATM Card

ATM card, as with any other kind of physical data storage medium, can be copied if scanned – in this case, though an ATM Card reader.

These card readers or ATM card copiers are attached exactly in front of where you insert your ATM Card in the machines.

These card copiers come in different shapes and types, depending on the design of ATM machines. So its hard to figure out the exact shape of ATM card copier, but the easiest way to determine is to firmly shake the opening of card insertion point to see if there’s any detachable device present or not. If anything falls off, then it wasn’t a part of the original ATM machine.

So when you insert your ATM card in a machine, it goes through these ATM copiers and the content of your ATM card is copied and stored in these devices.

Hackers then make a duplicate card, by copying all of your card data on to the duplicate ATM card to make a withdrawal. This is usually done in another country so that it is difficult to track the people behind the deed.

Stealing Your ATM PIN

In addition to duplicate ATM card,s hackers also need your ATM pin, for which they either use a camera or a keylogger.

How Hackers Withdraw Funds from Your Account

Hackers, with above devices have your ATM card and ATM pin. They can simply walk in to any ATM Machine and make a withdrawal.

Not to mention, they can also use your card online if its activated for internet banking.

How to Avoid ATM Hacking Attempts

By now you know how your card is skimmed and how your ATM pin is stolen. So essentially, if you are able to catch any such skimming device in advance, you can easily avoid any monetary loss as well.

For record, here’s what to look out for before making a withdrawal at any ATM machine:

  • Look for any detachable devices in front of where ATM card is inserted.
  • Look for any cameras, or just holes, pointing towards ATM machine’s keypad. Regardless of that, cover the keypad with your hand when entering the pin.
  • Use biometric verification where it’s available, instead of key pin verification.
  • Be alert when using ATM machines not located alongside bank branches.
  • For ultimate safety, maintain one account with almost no balance and transfer funds to this account only when you are withdrawing money.

Here’s What Banks Should Do

  • Start offering biometric verification on ATM machines.
  • Keep a thorough check on ATM machines.
  • Monitor your ATM machines (through those cameras installed) for any illegal activity.
  • Spread awareness on how to avoid this.

Tech reporter with over 10 years of experience, founder of ProPakistani.PK


  • ATM Point Ko SECURE Karna Chahyeh Na K ATM Cards Aur ATM User Ko :

    • Fozia

      While hackers installing such outrageous machines aren’t our ATM cameras are working vigilantly?

      • Bank K CCTV Wale Games Of Thorne Dekhte hai : Screen Pe :)

  • Saqib

    Why don’t banks use some sort of two factor authentication to prevent these frauds. If implemented, a user will have to provide his PIN alongside an OTP (One time password) sent to their mobile phone. Or why not make them biometric altogether and get rid of these PINs. They can also use the services like Authy which will require a customer to insert a PIN which will be generated in an app in their phone.

    • Xahid

      They don’t even send the SMS on time, how come they implement two factor authentication, I got SMS alert for my ATM withdrawal after a day, and some time no alert at all, but they deduct money from my account at exact date.
      MCB useless banking!

      • Same Here in HMB Bank : Waqt Pe SMS Ata he Nahi Hai

        • Saqi

          NIB was good for me. When it was merged with MCB, I got several unknown cuts in a single month. When i contacted their customers service, they said “these were some previous charges, now we won’t cut anymore”. I satisfied but next month they started the same drama once again. I blocked my MCB account. I’m satisfied now. RIP MCB

  • Muhammad Ashraf

    best would be if bank introduce two factor authentication one entering the pin by card holder and second by sending the verification code to registered cell no.

    • Agar Mobile Chori Ho Jaye Ya Ghar Pe Ho Ya Battery Khatam Ho Jaye Aur ATM Pocket Main Ho Aur Urgent Money Chahyeh to Ap Gaye :

      • Adeel

        Aur kisi ne ap ko choona aur katha laga diya phir to ap ki definitely lag gayi.

        • Yaha to ATM K Bahar Itni Lambi Line HOti hai K Mat PHOCHO

      • Muhammad Ashraf

        Ap kab tak zinda rahenge

      • Faizan Ul Haq

        kabhi koi kaam ki baat ki ho ?

        • Bohat Baar Ki Hai Par Apko Negative Comments He Nazar A Rahe hai Mere :)

  • Adeel

    I think koi aisi service banks ko introduce karani chahiye k hum apna Debit/Credit card kisi authenticator app se link kar den to problem solve har 30/60 sec mein naya code

    • Aur Her Shaks K Pas Smart Pone Nahi Aur Smart Ho to Wo Wifi Pe Consider Karta hai Na K GSM Net Pe

      • Adeel

        Authenticator works offline, you don’t need a internet after linked with authenticator

      • Adeel

        Aj k time mein to watan card wale bhi Huawei use kar rahe hain ?

        • Benazir Income Support Card Pehly Aya tha :)

  • Saqi

    The only solution is biometric verification. But it has one problem, your family can’t use your card

    • ATM Point Ko SECURE Karna Chahyeh Na K ATM Cards Aur ATM User Ko

  • Abdullah

    Or, Why not stop using magnetic tape ATM cards, like rest of the world!!!

  • ahmadnowaz

    The same risk applies while swapping ATM cards for online transitions and payments.

  • As Simple As that BranchLess Banking Merchants Ko Authorized Karo
    K
    User Apne Mobile Se Merchant K Account Main Jitne Paise Behje Ga 15 Rupee Katne K Bad Merchant Use De Dega CASH :
    Safe Bhi Aur Her Waqt Wo Bhi Kahi Se Bhi

  • Mubashir Mahmood

    chip based cards are very much secure then magnetic. And now many banks are launching it

  • Omer

    OTP is certainly a good option to go, however being a banker myself and considering the market dynamics, its not a feasible option. OTP once goes to your cellphones and then to your inbox. A transaction wont take place unless we input both. Do u think everybody who enters an atm room has access to the internet? Ppl are going to spend hours inside the room, making more mess and chances of theft etc.

    Have your alerts activated and go for less known atm outlets. Also keep a check on precautions mentioned. Ppl who do this act know a million ways to breach the bank’s security so its good to follow the guidelines ourselves.

    • Saqib

      OTP can be generated before-hande e.g. a person can initiate a ATM withdrawal request while at home, he should be sent an OTP which he can make use of once he reaches ATM. This way, regular PINs will not be needed at all and they can be get rid off. These OTP’s should have an expiry time like an hour or so. If implemented a person will be using unique password every time and PIN’s will not be needed at all.

  • UBL k ATMs biometric use kartay hain, I always use that.

    • Faida K Jab Ap Ko Emergency Ho Aur ATM Ap Ki Faimly K Pas to Wo Paise Nahi Nikal Paynege :
      RIP BioMetric On ATM

      • Family ka bhi account khulwa do bhai,

        • Privacy Bhi Rakhni Hoti Hai :
          PIN Code to Ap One Time Apno Ko De K Kabhi Bhi Changed Kar Loge :
          Behtar Hoga K ATM Point Safe & Secure Ho Na K ATM User :
          Ya PHIR BranchLess BANKING Se Merchant Ko Allow Kiya Jaye K Wo Payment Diya Kare BRANCHLESS Banking Customer Ko…

  • subhan

    here’s a thing i know a little about “black stripe cards can be copied while the chip based sim type cards are secure they cannot be copied”

  • muhammadbilal

    Simple solution, stop using ATMs at open public places.

  • Faisal Irfan

    A much needed awareness material. Stay vigilant everyone.

  • Many reports of ATM hacking have been received across the country after hundreds of users complained about unauthorized withdrawal activities from their bank accounts and blockage of their ATM cards, Investigation Agencies should prevent immediately when first complain notices.

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