ATM skimmers scam residents’ ATM cardsAug 1st, 2011 | By William Dilella | Category: News
A recent rise in the number of withdrawals made in the Parish using stolen ATM card data has led law enforcement and Secret Service agents to investigate.
Skimmers are the devices used by criminals to scan the information off an ATM card by reading the electronic barcode. It then stores that information to be taken later and used to access the account and pull any money in it, out.
In order to pull the money out, these skimmer devices need a camera over the keypad of the ATM, so the scammers can record a user’s Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) as they enter it into the electronic keypad.
Skimmers typically must be installed as hardware, in addition to the already present ATM machinery. The devices found in Parish have also been affixed behind a real pin pad at a gas station pump, taking down PINs from unsuspecting users, punching in their pin to the very device that would help clone the card later.
The FBI admits that the makers of the equipment used to skim card data are becoming more adept at making the mechanisms less conspicuous.
“The devices planted on ATMs are usually undetectable by users,” the FBI’s website reports. “The specific device is often a realistic-looking card reader placed over the factory installed card reader. Customers insert their ATM card into the phony reader, and their account info is swiped and stored on a small attached laptop or cell phone or sent wirelessly to the criminals waiting nearby.”
Though the recent thefts have caused some shock to ATM users and at-the-pump gas payers, the devices are not as prevalent as the recent change in public perception may lead some consumers to believe.
“In St. Bernard, residents reported 15 incidents now of unauthorized withdrawals using their debit card information, for a total of some $13,000,” said Chief Deputy James Pohlmann.
Before that, the Sheriff’s Office stated the only incidents occurring in the Parish akin to these current scams involved fast-food workers. When the cashiers at the counter would take the customer card for payment, the worker would swipe the card through a skimmer device installed behind the counter.
However, the recent outbreak of these skimmers at gas station and ATM’s has developed across the area, not just to St. Bernard. The Sheriff’s Office shared reports that one New Orleans ATM was hit dozens of times in a single weekend by scammers attempting to remove funds from various accounts, though there was no amount attributed to those thefts.
Local banks, such as Regions, are reassuring customers that safe guards and liability protection for consumers are set up for these situations. Mel Campbell, a Media Relations Manager with Regions Bank referred to the company’s own fraud protection system and safety measures. The Visa logo, or whatever credit card company backs the banks ATM card for credit-based transactions, ensures that customers are covered by that network, almost like a normal credit card.
“Anytime you use that card as a Visa or on the Visa network you are protected,” Campbell said. “If you’re talking about point of sale, where the transaction happens [like a gas station], that part is where you are absolutely, no question covered.”
So consumers do have some protection as the Secret Service continues its own investigation of these incidents. According to the FBI, the Secret Service is given financial jurisdiction over ATM and skimmer scams because the operations often become complicated and can run over state, or even national lines.
In the meantime, anyone who notices or suspects the machine they are about to use may have been altered or tampered with should inform gas station officials.