In many ways, there are few pieces of personal information in your life that are more important than your ATM pin. This multi-digit code doesn’t just let you withdrawal cash whenever you need – it’s also the only thing keeping someone who happens to steal your debit card from also stealing your finances and possibly your identity.
According to London police officers and a piece that originally ran at TheIndependent.co.uk, this battle for personal privacy just got a bit harder. Police in London discovered a series of tiny, hidden cameras fixed to ATM machines across the country. Virtually invisible to the naked eye, these cameras provide footage clear enough to allow thieves to steal someone’s credit or debit card details – all without alerting them to the fact that they’re being recorded at all.
The Problem With London’s ATMs
In February, police were called to the scene of a cash machine outside St. Paul’s Churchyard in London. A user had noticed a tiny pinhole located just above the keypad that, upon further examination, was revealed to include an incredibly powerful hidden camera. That camera was recording every second of every user interaction at the machine – capturing countless PIN codes in the process. In addition to that code, all someone would need was the associated debit or credit card (or a digital copy) to have access to every cent in a person’s bank account.
To make matters worse, a similar device was found just two weeks later at another ATM located not far from St. Paul’s. Two additional hidden cameras – both just as small and impossibly sophisticated – were discovered a few days later.
A representative for local law enforcement said that while they are investigating the matter, no arrests have been made. They said that the police regularly work with banks, financial institutions, and even cash machine vendors to help make sure this type of thing doesn’t happen on a regular basis. However, thanks to the rate at which technology continues to advance, it’s easy for things to slip through.
Police recommend that if you ever use a cash machine and spot anything unusual about it, or if you think that you’ve discovered signs of tampering, you should immediately stop what you’re doing. Do not use the machine – the consequences are far too severe. Police also recommend using cash machines INSIDE bank branches as opposed to outside, as they’re more carefully observed by bank officials and are, therefore, more difficult to compromise.
Identity Theft Facts and Figures
Again, a stolen ATM PIN code does more than just give a thief access to your money. With just a few taps of their finger, they have the ability to see virtually every piece of data associated with the same account. If they’re willing to put in a bit of additional work, they have everything they need to steal a person’s identity and do a potentially catastrophic amount of damage in the process.
This isn’t a problem that is limited to the United Kingdom, either. According to the experts at IdentityTheft.info, approximately 15 million people are affected by identity theft in the United States each year. Total combined financial losses reach into the neighborhood of $50 billion dollars. Some studies estimate that roughly 7% of all adults in the country have had their identities “misused” at some point in their lives, with each specific instance being responsible for roughly $3,500 in personal losses.
According to the website, there have been over 4.2 million victims of identity theft so far in 2017. If things continue at this pace, that number could climb as high as 16 million by the end of the year.
All of this goes to underline the importance of always being aware of your surroundings – especially when incredibly valuable personal information is at stake. We’ve entered an age where hidden cameras are smaller, more powerful and more affordable than ever – which means that you should always be extra vigilant in terms of your public activities.