December 1, 2009
Eric Villard
boa-atmThieves recently stole thousands of dollars from users of Eldersburg’s Bank of America ATM located at 6400 Ridge Road, state police said.

Trooper Corey Green of the Maryland State Police said there were several methods that a thief could use to steal bank card information, including using cell phone cameras to capture critical information.

The method in this case was a card skimmer, which is equipment installed on an ATM machine and disguised so as to not look out of the ordinary. Card information is stored on the device until the thieves return to collect it. They then make fake cards and use the stolen pin numbers to withdraw large amounts of money from the hijacked accounts. About 100 cards were compromised by this skimming device.

Green explained that the best defense against skimming was being observant. “Be vigilant about the ATM you use,” he said. “Inspect the machine the best you can.”

He warned users to look for signs of tampering on the machine such at cracked or loose fixtures or lights that had stopped functioning. Green estimated that several thousand dollars were stolen overall, but said he did not have a specific amount.

He mentioned that card skimming was not too common a practice, but that it had become fairly widespread up and down the east coast. ATM skimming carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a million dollar fine.

Protect your cash

Card skimming is not regulated to ATMs or bank cards. Australia’s ScamWatch Web site mentions that any form of electronic payment, including credit cards, is susceptible. The site lists warning signs to help recognize possible card fraud.

• A shop assistant takes your card out of your sight in order to process your transaction.
• You are asked to swipe your card through more than one machine.
• You see a shop assistant swipe the card through a different machine to the one you used.
• You notice something suspicious about the card slot on an ATM (e.g. an attached device).
• You notice unusual or unauthorized transactions on your account or credit card statement.

Stealing card information has also become easier with the advent of the Internet. According to the Web site, phishing scams sent through email that trick customers into giving sensitive information are another method thieves use. Spyware and key-loggers that can phantom download onto computers also put online shoppers at risk of having their information stolen.

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