Local News

SECU members fall victim to skimmers

Posted December 28, 2009 9:49 p.m. EST
Updated December 28, 2009 11:58 p.m. EST

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

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.