CLEARWATER, Fla. - In October, Clearwater Police arrested two men from Illinois. They say the men attached skimmers to two ATMs at Regions Bank, in an attempt to steal information from debit cards.
That incident was the most recent in a long list of skimming examples in the Bay area, particularly in Clearwater. The Pinellas County Sheriff’s said there have been multiple complaints about a gas station skimmer being used at a Hess station on McMullen Booth Road. The federal government is now handling that case, deputies said.
According to Rod Frankland, the vice president of corporate security for Regions Bank, the crime of ATM skimming is changing. Here are five new things worth knowing:
1) Thanks to improvements in technology, the skimmers have gotten much better.
According to Frankland, the skimmer used in the October incident was “100 times, if not 500 times better than the skimmer (they saw used) about a year ago.”
2) The strategy employed by skimmers appears to have changed.
In the past, skimmers have utilized a two-part operation. The first would be the skimmer itself, which would steal the data from the magnetic strip of the debit card. The second would be a tiny camera mounted on the ATM to record a person punching in their pin number.
Now, the camera tends to be attached to the skimmer itself and aimed at the keypad, Frankland said. The two-in-one device is more difficult to spot because of that.
3) The criminals can complete this crime without ever really showing their face.
Other than possibly appearing on bank surveillance video when they attach the skimmer, this could be a faceless crime. Armed with debit card information and a pin number, someone could then buy (or steal) a gift card from a store, Frankland said, program it with card data and then use it as an ATM card.
4) Skimmers are not operable for very long.
According to Frankland, battery life on the skimmers could be as short as just 2-4 hours. Because of that, the criminals will pull the skimmer off the ATM shortly after attaching it. However, then can capture information from hundreds of cards in that short time. Remotely-controlled skimmers may last longer.
5) If you can, use an ATM during normal business hours.
Frankland recommends utilizing an ATM, if possible, during normal possible hours. He said criminals are not as likely to use a skimmer when bank employees are working, because it increases the likelihood of being caught.
Other ways to prevent becoming a victim include covering your hand when you input your pin number and shaking the card reader before using it to see if it is loose. If it is, it’s possible a skimming device has been attached.
Frankland suggests using the same ATM, whenever possible, so you become familiar with it. He believes this will make you more likely to notice any changes to it.
“Unless you’re familiar with the machine you’re using, you might not detect it,” Frankland said.
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