Local News

SECU members fall victim to skimmers

Posted December 28, 2009

— An investigation is under way after about 300 people had money skimmed from their State Employees Credit Union account.

Skimming investigation under way Skimming investigation under way

Skimming devices record data from the magnetic strips on the back of financial cards, police said.

Criminals place them on card machines to collect data and create counterfeit cards. They combine the data with hidden-camera video of PIN entry to use the new, fake cards to withdraw cash and make purchases.

SECU member Lisa Morris, of Roxboro, said she got a call from the credit union on Christmas Day telling her she was a victim of skimming.

“The way things are now, this was the holidays. I’m a single parent. I know what I have to do to generate the income to take care of my family, and I felt very violated,” Morris said.

Morris’ account was skimmed by using her SECU debit card at a gas station.

“This type of thing happens all the time, unfortunately,” Leanne Phelps, senior vice president of SECU's card and record services department, said.

Phelps advises SECU members to pay careful attention to their bank activity and credit card statements and report any irregularities or suspicions to police.

“Any time you're using a device anywhere, using your card, look for something unusual,” she said.

Skimming devices are often color coordinated, making them difficult to spot on ATMs. Finding the skimming device on a gas pump is virtually impossible as it is often hidden on the inside.

“Some of the more common ways to hide them is put an envelope holder close to the ATM, or what looks like an envelope holder with a small pin hole in it, and a small camera mounted inside. Sometimes they're mounted overhead,” said Jim Sughrue, spokesman for the Raleigh Police Department.

SECU officials said the recent thefts likely happened at gas stations and not by using their ATM machines. It is not yet clear if other banks or customers are affected.

Police offered these tips to ATM users for avoiding skimmers.

  • 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 loose.
  • 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.
  • Never 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.

Anyone with information on who might be responsible for the crime is asked to call the Raleigh Police Department at 919-996-3555.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • AMazeder Dec 29, 2009

    Thanks, WRAL, the updated article that came out this afternoon is much more balanced and informative.

  • lnshew Dec 29, 2009

    FE is incorrect. If you make a deposit after 2 PM, it's considered "received" on the next business day but deposited immediately. You can still access those funds immediately through your debit card, you just can't expect ACTUAL checks to clear off it the night of December 23 if you deposited after 2PM on that day. So people who deposited money in a branch on Wednesday had access to it over the holiday, regardless of whether it was deposited on the next business day. They give you credit for the deposit before the checks actually clear.

  • Mike Genovese Dec 29, 2009

    I was also a victim of these debit-card bandits. Happened at the Sheetz gas station on Mebane Oaks Rd. in Mebane. Card was charged $503.00 on 12/23/09. $500 is the max they can debit in a day. The "debit" happened in charleston WV. Still waiting on the Credit Union to credit me back the stolen money...

  • airengr Dec 29, 2009

    Interesting! I tried to make a comment on this story earlier today (12/29) and it didn't get posted. I'm pretty sure it fit the GOLO Guidelines so I'm not sure why WRAL is unnecessarily screening out legitimate comments.

  • Go Figure Dec 29, 2009

    its going to get to the point where I don't use my credit card/debit card and have to get cash from a PHYSICAL SECU bank. I can't believe how horrible this world is turning out....i have had money stolen from my acct so many times it would make your head spin.

  • JAKOFALLTRADES Dec 29, 2009

    go check out roxboro's courier times newspaper tomorrow. online or buy one it should have a picture of the suspects.

  • FE Dec 29, 2009

    "They were all out shopping and went to use the cards and they were declined. 2 of the 3 had just had their whole checks deposited..." - genie2u

    If your friends had "just" deposited their checks, it is likely the funds had not yet cleared the bank(s) and were not even considered "good money." That is a VERY common occurrence....

    Banks were on a Christmas holiday schedule anyway, and the SECU followed the state's holiday schedule, meaning anything deposited after 2 pm on Wednesday (Dec 23rd) would not clear the bank until sometime the following Monday (Dec 28th).


  • wildcat Dec 29, 2009

    Criminals are always two steps ahead. Hopefully people will take these warning seriously. May the criminals be caught soon.

  • JAKOFALLTRADES Dec 29, 2009

    i sent pictures to wral of the suspects but they wont post them.

  • genie2u Dec 29, 2009

    True about SECU being big enough to speak out because the 3 people I mentioned that it happened to in Mebane did NOT bank at SECU - 2 were suntrust. Either way, pretty much means there is a skimmer at one of the gas pumps or ATM's right there along hwy 70 between efland and mebane because it is the only corridor they really all have in common, and the did say that gas pumps were the most likely culprit