Local News

Skimmers hitting debit card customers across N.C.

Posted December 29, 2009

— Cases in which debit card information has been stolen are cropping up across North Carolina, and officials said Tuesday that thousands of customers could be affected.

The State Employees Credit Union informed about 300 customers in recent days that their account information had been obtained by skimmers and used to make withdrawals and purchases.

Suspected SECU skimmer Six sought in credit union skimming probe

Skimming devices record data from the magnetic strips on the back of financial cards to create counterfeits, police said. Criminals place them automated teller machines or gas pumps to collect data, and they use hidden cameras to record people's personal identification numbers.

SECU officials on Tuesday released photos of six men believed to have used stolen debit card information at credit union ATMs along the Interstate 85 corridor.

Account information has been stolen from customers in Raleigh to Winston-Salem to Charlotte, according to SECU security officer Cory Mathes. He said the widespread nature of the thefts leads him to believe either a large skimming network is involved or someone has hacked into the computer system of a company that processes debit card transactions.

"Once you use your card, it goes through the ATM and is then sent to a processor to send to your financial institution. It could be hacked at that point or compromised at that point," Mathes said.

Either way, he said, it's likely that customers of other financial institutions have had their account information compromised as well.

"Across the state of North Carolina, there is no telling (how many people are affected)," he said. "Cards are being used that were compromised in North Carolina in West Virginia. That number is still growing. It's in the thousands."

Representatives of Bank of America and Wachovia declined to comment on potential skimming cases, saying only that they monitor ATMs and work with law enforcement to combat fraud. A spokeswoman for RBC bank said they haven't had any reports of account skimming in the Raleigh area.

SECU customer Denise Spaugh said she was notified that her account information had been compromised. She said she feels lucky it was caught before any money was stolen.

"I'm relieved that no money was taken out of my account. It just let's me know I need to check my bank statements very carefully every time they come out," Spaugh said.

In addition to monitoring bank statements, officials urged customers to take the following steps to avoid skimmers:

  • Closely examine card slots on ATMs and gas pumps to make sure nothing appears to be attached to the front of them.
  • Do not use an ATM or gas pump 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 or gas pump.
  • Always cover the keypad as you're entering your PIN in case a hidden camera is nearby.
  • Never accept "help" from anybody at an ATM.
  • Immediately call the customer service number on the ATM if a machine keeps your card, appears suspicious or does not function properly.

This story is closed for comments.

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  • ctkane Dec 30, 2009

    I was taken for $1000 last summer and I did some research and found out that the top skimming threat is from wait-staff at restaurants, not gas stations or ATMs (tho' it does happen). Restaurants are one of only times the card is out of your sight and these wireless skimmers can be bought for next to nothing and only takes a second to swipe before they process your authorized transaction.

  • kre2208 Dec 30, 2009

    Victimleee Crime? Let me come across one of the scum bags and I will guarntee you there will be a victim.

    Why are we not told where these gas pumps are so that we can avoid them? I think that the store owner should be liable. Maybe then they will watch what is going on at their sites. There are two parts involved. One adding the reader on the inside of the pump (which I can not see someone noticing that there pupmp is beng taken apart). And two, the video on the outside.

    I can not believe that the gas pump owner does not know what is gong on. They are always on the lookout for people driving off without paying, I can't see them not noticing something going on with their pumps.

  • svdreamcatcher Dec 30, 2009

    Here is a similar story by another CBS news station in Arizona this month. http://www.kpho.com/money/21983995/detail.html

    If the average consumer can find this information in seconds on the internet why can't WRAL when they build these reports. Their original story has morphed over the lastfew days and is only now starting to provide meaningful information. Too bad for the viewers that only saw the first one - first impressions are lasting impressions.

  • svdreamcatcher Dec 30, 2009

    Here is a site that has a picture of a wireless card skimmer that authorities in Arizona obtained back in 2007 (this is not a new problem and there is alot of information available that WRAL could have used to build their story: http://consumerist.com/2007/06/gas-station-skimmers-steal-your-credit-card-info-when-you-pay-at-the-pump.html

  • svdreamcatcher Dec 30, 2009

    Did some research on Google. Appears that the gas delivery guys have a universal key to get into the outer components of the pumps and that these are popping up for sale on the internet. That would provide the method to get into the gas pump. Pull a large van up and have a second person go in the store to 'purchase something' and validate the purpose of the van being there. Install a wireless sniffer and start monitoring. Looks like this has been going on nationwide since 2007, there are pictures of the wireless device out there. Wonder why WRAL took the angle that it was only impacting SECU customers, seems like SECU reports this type stuff and the media spins it to only be them. Wish other financial institutions would step up and try to better educate and inform consumers - but doing so may hurt their bottom line I guess. Do a search for 'gas card skimmers' on google, lots of information available.

  • kcfoxie Dec 30, 2009

    Someone said that I probably got skimmed using a gas pump. My car takes diesel. I only go to 5 stations, and only one of them has Pay at the Pump and the diesel is on its own island and is the least visited of all the pumps. I highly doubt someone put a reader on the least used pump.

    I think a processor for many merchants was compromised, because my fraudulent transactions were all over the internet -- web orders.

  • DandyJenn Dec 30, 2009

    blizzard.com, eh?

    sounds like those theives were into a little world of warcraft.

    i monitor my account every day and if something looks fishy, i am on top of it asap. i hate putting my pin in at gas pumps, so i always use the credit option.

  • itsnotmeiswear Dec 30, 2009

    I had a person in Chicago and Los Angeles withdrawing cash from an ATM from my account over a two day period. Neither was subject to the limits and one of them was using a card that was reported stolen two years before. Turns out the bank was hacked a couple of weeks earlier but they failed to share that information until I was hit. It happens all the time at all banks.

    I didn't have any real trouble getting it back, but the bank had me fill out the refund paperwork twice because they said the first time was done incorrectly. I laughed when I completed the second one because I knew they would end up refunding me twice. They did.

  • dxedame Dec 30, 2009

    I had the exact same thing happen to me sometime back, same company. My card was copied at a local restaurant, and I had over $3,000 on it by the time I got home!It was all refunded, though,thank heavens. I would like to see pictures of the 6 suspects in this latest case.

  • nerdlywehunt Dec 30, 2009

    Most law enforcement agencies consider this a victimless crime so they just reluctantly do the paperwork to cover the victim in case a warrant is issues for the " non victim". Somehow they can serve papers on people that didn't do the crime but can't seem to find the time and resources to find the people that did the real crime. Comments any LEO's????????????