(08/27) Editor's note: more reports have come in, bringing the total number of Harris Bank customers scammed to eight in less than five days.
As technology advances, so have the scammers, netting nearly $11,000 from local residents in a recent rash of ATM fraud.
Skokie police are investigating sophisticated "skimming" schemes that may involve hidden devices or tampering, such as placing electronic faceplates over card readers of automated teller machines. With the latter, when customers slide their card into the reader, account information stored on the magnetic strip is recorded (See images for more).
According to police reports this week, five women and three men, all Skokie residents, have fallen prey to ATM fraud over the past few days and have lost a combined $10,960 due to the fraudulent withdrawals.
It is currently unclear whether the authorities have video from security cameras and whether more than one individual is committing the crimes. However, reports show that unauthorized withdrawals were made at different ATMs throughout the Chicago area on a daily basis.
In each report, the victims said they were in possession of their debit cards when the thefts occurred.
Skokie police also suspect that mini-cameras may have been used, being placed near bank and drugstore ATMs to record the personal identification number (PIN) when an account holder conducts a transaction.
The cameras can be hidden in items such as a phony pamphlet holder or even a speaker.
After a period of time that can be several hours or days, the equipment is collected and the account information is transferred to a blank gift card, police officials said.
The U.S. Secret Service says card-skimming cases have been on the rise over the past few years.
The Skokie victims noticed their accounts were noticeably lighter several days after their last legitimate transaction. All together, 23 fraudulent transactions were made, with 21 withdrawals for $500, another for $400 and the last one being for $60, according to police reports.
One of the skimmings took place in town at an ATM at Walgreens, 4101 Dempster St., with several others in Chicago.
While each involved a Harris Bank customer, Skokie police said it was not the bank's fault.
"In this case, the thieves probably have a really good faceplate that matches the colors associated with Harris Bank," said officer Joe Marzigliano. "The faceplates could have easily had colors matching [Bank of America] on it."
Marzigliano said ATM customers should take precautions when withdrawing money, such as tugging on card readers or faceplates to check for tampering and to look for objects that seem out of place. Experts also advise people to cover their hand while entering their PIN.
Harris Bank, 9731 Skokie Blvd., acknowledged that it was aware of the incidents, but an official said it could not provide further information.
Police reports show the bank is "actively investigating this incident."
Here is a link to a "Today" show report on skimming, click here.
ATM locations hit:
According to police reports, authorities are aware that some of the illegal withdrawals have occurred at the following locations:
- 4887 N. Broadway Ave. (three times)
- 2801 W. Devon Ave. (twice)
- 817 Church St. (twice)
- 2555 W. Clark St. (three times)
- 1251 W. Fullerton Ave.
Check the site later for more updates.