I was using an ATM at Walmart when it froze on me. My pin number was in the machine, the account opened. I could not get the machine to cancel, or release my account. I was stuck standing at the machine for almost an hour waiting for help. Walmart told me it wasn't their machine, even thought the phone number to call was 1800 Walmart for help.

I had visions of my checking and savings being drained as I stood there feeling trapped and helpless. I called the 1800walmart number on the machine, which put me on permanent hold. I demanded (I started to panic) for a Store Manager to come to my aide. I even called my bank, who said it's not our ATM we can't help you.

Instead I guess I should have asked the bank and canceled my card. I did not know if money was going to come out. I did not know if the next person would access my account.

Shamefully I lost my temper and slammed my open hand on the touch screen while talking to the manager. To my surprise the screen shattered. I ended up paying Walmart $800.00 for the inconvenience and my temper. I was informed by Walmart that no one stopped me from walking away from the ATM machine. I was not stuck protecting my assests. I could have left anytime I wanted.

So what does one do when an ATM stalls with your information in the system?


  • 2
    Unplug the machine? Dec 4, 2014 at 22:00
  • I called and canceled my card today. My Bank CSR said that cancelling or restricting. my card should have been offered to me by the rep yesterday. That once the card was canceled, I would be safe to walk away Dec 4, 2014 at 22:19
  • If there was a witness nearby, ask for their details so they can corroborate that you didn't walk away with any cash.
    – paj28
    Dec 4, 2014 at 22:45
  • 2
    Side question: if the atm did not belong to walmart, what are they doing charging you for the repair? If there is a comtract in place where walmart is responsible for costs for damage to the atm, then walmart shouldknow who to contact as the atm owner to get you help.
    – atk
    Dec 4, 2014 at 23:45
  • 2
    Sounds like some wal-mart employee just conned you out of $800.
    – k1DBLITZ
    Dec 5, 2014 at 16:11

3 Answers 3


Issue to consider: You must assume the worst case scenario -you credit card info has just been stolen. The following answer deals with the actions you should take to safeguard yourself from you money being stolen as well. Note that this answer really doesnt address the mechanisms behind how your information may have been stolen (I can certainly elaborate, but that was not my initial intent here:)

Perhaps the easiest way to solve this unfortunate scenario is to call your bank (where the card was issued that is in the ATM) and report the card lost. They will immediately invalidate your current card and send you a new one (usually for free).

After I make the call, I could step away from the machine and feel very confident that there would be no further [potential] breach and move on to [potential] damage control:

  • Immediately find the store manager, like you did and discuss the issue with them (this is just a customer service thing and has little to do with security).

  • Do the same with the ATM operator and/or manufacturer. They will usually keep you posted as they perform tests to see what happened. Ideally, you just want them to find that it was just a fluke accident and that's that (perhaps they give you some compensation), but unfortunately, this scenario could have been a card skimmer that went wrong... If that is the case...

  • Monitor your accounts! and then perhaps...

  • Look into potential legal repatriations for negligence.

P.S. While you should NEVER reuse PINs, some people do so; so if that is you, change your other PINs as soon as possible.

  • 1
    Well thought out.
    – Desthro
    Dec 5, 2014 at 16:28
  • Thank you. I wish I had known this before. Hopefully my folly can teach others. Dec 6, 2014 at 16:45

Its already been mentioned in a comment but I figure it's worth voicing.

Short Answer

Unplug the ATM


As you said the ATM froze on you. Whether it was in the middle of a transaction or not is of not real relevance cause ATM's software is developed in a way that the transaction is either completed or cancelled(at least they are supposed to). This helps with scenarios like when the electricity fails, did the money withdrawal you were doing take the money of your account but you got no money? If you didn't get the money the transaction is rolled back in the banks servers memory and no money is deducted from you. This is old technology nothing new.

Most the information that could have been in the ATM at the moment of the failure is kept in RAM, some could be in disk either by design or by swapping of the OS. But if you unplug the machine it will do just like your pc (actually most likely is a pc in there) all the info that it had in RAM, will be erased from memory since RAM memory is volatile. Once the power goes out so does the data in memory.

Anyway the hard drive of the ATM is most likely encrypted. So I really wouldn't worry about it.

If you can, unplug the ATM.

Plug it back, wait for it come back and try to use it again, this way you can ensure this time the machine does the proper "quiting" procedure, however this is probably not even necessary. If your card was retained call the bank so they can issue a new one.

If your paranoid keep an eye in your movements but I doubt anything will happen.

  • Thanks. I could not find the plug. In hindsight, I think immediately canceling the card was the safest option. I'm wiser now. I wonder how many others would panic in the same situation? It would be nice if we were all savy, before we are experienced. Dec 11, 2014 at 18:22

Well this is a very nasty situation. First of all I would check if the ATM doesn't have a telephone number listed on it.

If it doesn't have a telephone number, check for a store manager. If they can't help or are not willing to help, check if it's got a powercord you can unplug (most of them don't unfortunately). Ask the store manager if they can unplug it for you. Insist that they give you the contact details of the ATM's managing company and that they contact them promptly.

If that doesn't work get your card cancelled and tell your bank that no transactions should be allowed. Aside from that, there's not much you can do unless you want to wait around.

  • If no power cord maybe ask them to throw the breaker? Or are they somehow self contained? Dec 4, 2014 at 22:04
  • They shouldn't be self contained, but it's not made that easy that anyone can just unplug them. Dec 4, 2014 at 22:05
  • Regardless, if you just unplug the system, the data may have already been transmitted (or recovered once it's powered back on -or even scrapped, etc) Dec 4, 2014 at 22:08
  • 1
    I called the number on the ATM. It was 1-800-Walmart. Dec 4, 2014 at 22:16
  • 1
    And I repeatedly asked for a store manager. Dec 4, 2014 at 22:16

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