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Raleigh police: Don't get sideswiped by 'skimmers'

Posted November 24, 2008
Updated November 25, 2008

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— The Raleigh Police Department is urging ATM users to be aware of electronic devices and hidden cameras that can "skim" ATM card data and personal identification numbers (PINs) while customers are at the machines.

The equipment, which thieves install on ATM machines, is hard to detect and is removed before the fraud is discovered, making the cases very difficult to solve.

David and Shannon Dannen were preparing for the arrival of their new baby girl when they say someone took money out of their banking account.

"We noticed that we had a $700 withdrawal,” David Dannen said.

The money was withdrawn from a Bank of America automatic teller machine on Six Forks Road in July.

"When we contacted Bank of America, they said that we must have given our ATM PIN number and card to somebody, which we obviously did not do,” Shannon Dannen said.

The couple went to police and found they were not alone. Thirteen people reported unauthorized ATM transactions around the same time.

"If we can alert consumers and help them avoid becoming victims, then we are a step ahead in the game,” Raleigh Police Department spokesman Jim Sughrue said.

Police say thieves are using electronic devices called "skimmers" to record account information.

“The card goes through the skimmer on the way into the ATM machine,” Sughrue said.

The skimmer records data from the magnetic strips on the back of cards, and that information is used to manufacture counterfeit cards.

A tiny camera is also often hidden nearby a skimmer to record PINs as they are entered. The camera might be concealed in a small box that would appear to be a brochure holder, or simply attached nearby with double-sided tape.

With the PIN information obtained by the hidden camera, the counterfeit cards are used to make purchases or withdraw funds from bank accounts.

Crooks often leave the skimmers and cameras in place for a relatively short time.

"Be aware of your surroundings and take a look at the machine before you use it,” Sughrue said.

There are some tips that will help ATM users reduce the chances of compromising their financial data:

  • Closely examine ATM card slots to make sure nothing appears to be attached to the front of them.
  • Do not use an ATM if the card reader appears to be added on, to fit poorly or to be lose.
  • Avoid device instructions that say things like "Swipe Here First" or “Use This Machine Only."
  • ·If something does not look right, use another ATM;
  • Always cover the ATM keypad as you're entering your PIN in case a hidden camera is nearby.
  • Don't accept help from anybody at an ATM machine.
  • Immediately call the customer service number on the ATM if a machine keeps your card, appears suspicious or does not function properly.

Victims of unauthorized ATM transactions should immediately report the activity to police and to their financial institution.

So far, police have not arrested anyone.

Most of the victims have had their bank accounts credited for the money lost. However, though Bank of America hasn't put the money back into the Dannens' account.

Anyone with information that might help detectives is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 919-226-CRIME.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • canesnut Nov 25, 2008

    Vote for this story and make sure people are aware of this! Put it at #1

  • Justin T. Nov 25, 2008

    "All ATMs should be inspected daily. Completely careless on the banks part."

    Exactly. The ATM concept was developed to save the banks money, not help customers. They could at least send a flunky around to inspect them.

  • ChristaS Nov 25, 2008

    People are just so greedy and crazy these days they will do anything to steal money from people. I don't understand it.....

  • The Fox Nov 25, 2008

    [Bank of America is about the WORST bank out there.]Dittos

  • ncsu2000 Nov 25, 2008

    starglow2005 I totally agree. All ATM should be inspected daily. Completely careless on the banks part.

  • jdman Nov 25, 2008

    looks like I will be going to the bank and withdrawing money from the teller......like in the old days....

  • starglow2005 Nov 25, 2008

    The institution that owns and operates the ATM should be held responsible to monitor the perimeter security of their ATM's and ensure they have not been modified or tampered with. If this means checking the ATM's more often,then so be it.

    If a customer looks suspicious checking out an ATM machine looking for hidden cameras and sniffing devices, they themselves could potentially be accused of tampering with the machine or casing it and the surrounding area.

    That's almost like going into a bank and asking to check the security of the bank vault that protects your money. The responsibility for ensuring ATM security should rest with the banking institution and not the customers.

  • superman Nov 25, 2008

    And then there are people who use their card and then want to claim that they didnt. The crooks arent the only dishonest people. Use your card and then claim you didnt. Most ATM machines have a 200.00 a day limit! The best thing to do if you take a trip or need to use the ATM is to buy a visa or mastercharge gift card. If you lose your card you only use the money that was on the card. Your bank account wont be affected

  • vote4changeASAP Nov 25, 2008

    Open a separate checking account for cash/debit purchases and limit the funds in that account. If you have a substantial amount in savings, do not combine your savings account with the account you use at ATMs.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Nov 25, 2008

    Under the mattress keeps looking better and better as a place to store money safely :-)