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The Real Deal: ATMs being Hacked for Millions

Updated: Thursday, April 10 2014, 02:12 PM EDT

ALBANY - Federal regulators are warning banks and credit unions about a new scam that allows hackers to drain the bank accounts of unsuspecting customers.  The thieves are making huge withdrawals from other people's accounts by hacking into ATMs.  According to regulators, the hackers often wait for weekends and holidays when the ATMs are fully loaded with cash to pull this scam off.  They steal account numbers and then hack into the software that runs ATMs to remove any cap on withdrawals.  
Normally, if you go to the ATM for cash, there is a limit on how much you can take out but scammers have found a way to hack into bank systems and change all of that, "they just use some of the infrastructure, the account number and the name and those things and then remove the limits from the debit card, so the ATMs and banks didn't even know that they have pulled a million dollars out of an account that had maybe $100 in it," says Reg Harnish of GreyCastle Security.  
The US Secret Service calls the scam "Unlimited Operations."  In some cases the hackers steal the account information directly from the banks, other times they buy it from other breaches and make bogus cards with it.  A ring of hackers recently netted more than $40 million in cash running this scam.  "Most security professionals will suggest that small to medium size banks are more susceptible because they don't have the budget for security that a larger bank does but a larger bank has a lot more surface area, think about how many ATMs Citibank and Bank of America have out there, you've got to protect all of those ATMs," Harnish says.  
This may seem like a victimless crime because if it's your account that's hacked, most of the time the bank will make it right but in the end, we all pay for it, "You're paying for it somewhere along the line, whether it's in increased interest or annual fees or whatever it is.. there's no free lunch," says Harnish.  
While banks and credit unions work to update their security to try and prevent these type of attacks, as a customer you should try to limit the use of your debit card.  If you want to you use plastic, credit cards have far more protections than debit cards do.  

The Real Deal: ATMs being Hacked for Millions

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