Local News

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

Posted November 24, 2008 11:14 p.m. EST
Updated November 25, 2008 8:15 a.m. EST

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The money was withdrawn from a Bank of America automatic teller machine on Six Forks Road in July.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