Words from the Boss: Cloned Debit Cards Add to ATM Thefts

Technology makes our lives easier, or at least it’s supposed to; yet, as our understanding  improves and complicated processes, such as computer programming, become more user-friendly,  some decide to use these innovations to prey upon others.

ATM skimming-devices, for instance, have evolved from clunky, obvious pieces of fake auto-bank teller equipment to sleek, undetectable theft devices that are unnoticeable to untrained eyes. As the equipment becomes better, the criminals grow in sophistication, often stealing hundreds of thousands in others’ money before being discovered.

Recently, Chicago-area Aldi stores were targeted by thieves, and in a Nassau County, New York case, four Romanians were recently arrested and accused of swiping debit card info to withdraw $200,000 from bank accounts before being discovered. The “card skimmers” range from card readers to integrated devices with wireless cameras that capture PIN information, allowing thieves to access others’ bank accounts.

In Nassau County, the thieves added a new twist; using the PIN and account number data, the criminals transferred the information onto blank gift cards to use for withdrawing funds or making purchases without calling attention to themselves. It appears, to all present, that these professional scammers are simply making purchases. The cash withdrawal part of the crime can occur weeks later and hundreds of miles away, hampering investigations.

Illegal ATM theft has grown into a high-tech, $10 billion/year international enterprise.

Despite warnings issued to the public via bank alerts and news stories, ATM crimes, which began in the early 1990’s, is growing.

The Romanian ring in New York believed their crimes would be untraceable, and allegedly counted upon slow reaction from US law enforcement by crossing jurisdictional lines in an effort to throw investigators. At times, territorial boundaries slow criminal investigations due to miscommunication, state laws, and other legal issues.

To keep yourself from becoming a victim, protect your PIN number by holding a hand over the keypad, and do your best to block angles that could be seen by surveillance equipment with your body.  Although nearly impossible, try to use ATMs with which you are familiar; this will enable you to recognize any changes to the machine, like a pamphlet holder or “security mirror” that might conceal a hidden surveillance device.

When several ATMs are grouped in the same area, be wary of those that seem to be out of place, or look different from others.

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