“New and Improved” Kinecta Federal Credit Union ATM Machine Crashes and Strands Customer
by Michael D. Robbins
Director, Public Safety Project
August 27, 2012 at 6:34 PM PT
What do you do when the automated teller machine (ATM) you are using crashes and hangs up on you, freezing your personal banking account information on the display, and holding on to your ATM card? This is exactly what happened to the user of a Kinecta Federal Credit Union ATM machine located at 1970 E. Imperial Highway in El Segundo, California on Sunday, August 26, 2012 at 8:16 p.m.
She completed her first transaction, printing an account balance, without any problems. But when she tried to perform a second transaction, the ATM locked up on her and the keypad became non-responsive. No matter which buttons she pressed, the ATM machine would not clear her personal banking information from the screen, and it would not release her ATM card. Bummer!
A look inside the card slot with a flashlight revealed no visible evidence of the ATM card. It was transported somewhere inside the ATM, probably for security purposes.
This raised multiple concerns. If she left the machine, could someone else later have access to her accounts, withdraw cash from each account, and get her ATM card?
The adjacent Kinecta ATM machine had an even stranger situation. It too was inoperable, but it displayed the following error diagnostics information in plain old-fashioned text display mode, with green characters on a black background:
2 Fault(s) 8/26/12 13:35 ================================ Faults Menu 1 Card Reader inoperative 2 CDM purge bin is out <CNL> or <Esc> to Exit
Ironically, a sign displayed on the wall to the left of the two Kinecta ATM machines read as follows, in large black text on a bright blue background:
JUST FOR YOU!
OUR NEW AND IMPROVED, HASSLE-FREE ATM MACHINES
- COLOR SCREENS
- VOICE GUIDANCE
- 24 HOURS, 7 DAYS A WEEK AVAILABILITY
COME AND EXPERIENCE THE LATEST IN TECHNOLOGY TODAY!
After baby-sitting the ATM machine for more than half an hour, trying the keyboard every so often hoping the ATM would spring back to life, or at least re-boot itself and clear the personal banking information on the screen, the machine remained frozen. It was a Sunday evening, and the nearby credit union office was closed. Fortunately, the Kinecta customer had a cell phone. She called the Kinecta phone number on the ATM machine, since she could not read it from her ATM card held captive deep inside the machine.
It was also outside the regular Kinecta customer service hours. But after going through about three or four levels of menus, she was able to talk to someone about a lost or stolen ATM card. The person said she could not remotely reset, reboot, or turn off the ATM machine. All she could do was cancel and de-activate the ATM card, and issue a new one which would arrive in seven to ten days. Hassle-free? Not really.
The service representative claimed that once the ATM card is in the machine for a half hour, the machine will not release it, and an ATM serviceman has to retrieve the card from the machine. She added that the card will no longer be useful because its magnetic strip will have been erased.
The customer returned to check on the ATM machine at 9 a.m. the next morning, but it was still frozen with her personal account information on the display. She went into the nearby credit union office, but nobody there could reset, reboot, or turn off the ATM. Instead, they taped an “out of service” sign to the machine, covering up the display.
The customer’s name has been omitted from this story to protect her privacy and security. Redacted photos of the ATM machines and the ATM receipt may be posted with this article at a later time.
The moral of the story? Keep a fully-charged reliable cell phone on you whenever you can. Keep a list of credit card account information including phone numbers to call to report cards lost or stolen at home, in your car, and with a friend or relative. You can use a simple encoding scheme to prevent someone from misusing the information if it falls into the wrong hands. There used to be, and may still be, services where you can register your credit card accounts to have one number to call if one or more credit or banking cards are lost or stolen. They would contact your financial institutions for you to report your cards as lost or stolen.
And beware of “new and improved” technology, whether it is an ATM machines or a “smart” electrical meter. Those so-called “smart” meters are not so smart if they catch fire or explode, and set fire to your home or business, or if they create a power surge or voltage spoke that blow out your appliances and consumer electronics. Damage may be caused during removal of the old electric meter and installation of the new “smart” meter, or sometime after installation of the “smart” meter. Those “smart” meters have one or more switches inside that can be operated remotely by the electrical utility.
Always use high quality, high-rating surge suppressors or electrical line conditioners for televisions and other consumer electronics, and not only for computers and computer displays, peripheral devices, and accessories. It is less expensive to replace the surge suppressor or line conditioner than to replace your consumer electronics.
In cases of damage to appliances and consumer electronics caused by electric utilities, the utilities often deny fault and refuse to take financial responsibility for the damage they cause. Pressure must be applied through local or state elected officials, or through litigation. For example, there have been such complaints about Southern California Edison Company (SCE) causing power surges or voltage spikes, damaging the appliances in multiple homes, when they were trimming tree branches near electric power lines.
In addition, “smart” meters may be used to spy on activities inside your home. They can be used to remotely monitor, control, and restrict the use of electricity and appliances in your home. They emit radio waves which may raise concerns about radio frequency interference with other devices, and they may raise concerns about adverse health effects, whether or not there is valid scientific research to support such concerns.