Card skimming is a crime wherein crooks affix ATMs with devices that read and store card details. Additionally, cameras are strategically hidden to record unsuspecting cardholders’ PIN numbers as they enter them on ATM keypads. In most cases, customers don’t notice they are using compromised equipment because the skimming hardware doesn’t appear out of the ordinary as compared to the other parts on the ATM machines. The stolen information is used to manufacture counterfeit cards which are in turn used to withdraw money or charge purchases.
In Seattle, three suspects have recently been arrested in conjunction with an elaborate credit-card skimming racket in which some $500,000 was yielded as a result of fraudulent transactions. Hundreds of consumers were affected throughout six western states including Washington, California, Nevada, and Oregon.
The most recent cases reveal that suspects are being accused of attaching the skimming devices directly to the readers customers must swipe their card at in order to gain entry into bank lobby vestibules, as well as planting wireless pinhole video cameras to record the typing in of PIN numbers. On occasion, federal agents found that the suspects hung “out of service” signs onto any ATM machines that were not tampered with, thereby guiding customers towards machines equipped with skimmers.
The most active of the three suspected skimmers currently in custody is 22-year-old Beneyam Asrat G-Sellassie. This Seattle native has been charged with multiple counts of bank fraud according to a Sept. 8 complaint with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle, reports Collections Credit Risk.
Arrested at a traffic stop in September of 2010, G-Sellassie is suspected of being involved with over 20 skimming incidents spanning four states that impacted the bank accounts of some 1,800 customers. Collections Credit Risk reveals that, according to the court, more than 573 customers suffered losses from fraudulent withdrawals and purchases and the dollar figure of losses that can be linked to G-Sellassie’s alleged crimes is $390,000 plus.
As a result of skimming becoming more rampant, ATM users are advised that before they insert their card they should survey the machine for any loose parts, mirrors or signs that could potentially conceal a hidden camera or any other strange irregularities on the equipment. Furthermore, users are encouraged to use their free hand to cover the keypad when entering their PIN number.