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UPDATE: ATM Card Scams Pick 8 Accounts

Skokie police suspect hidden devices used as residents lose nearly $11,000.

(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. 

Skokie Mike August 26, 2010 at 12:55 PM
wow one way or the other, crooks are gonna screw you
Ruth H August 26, 2010 at 03:50 PM
i asked my bank if they would cover something like this and they said in most cases they dont....im getting a new bank!
Neil Banoff April 01, 2011 at 02:21 PM
I was hit by these Skimmers (probably the same gang of crooks) about a year ago. They had skimmed many Harris Bank customers at the Harris Branch mentioned in this article. Fortunately, my wife caught it from the online reporting just hours after the first occurence. I IMMEDIATELY, at 2 a.m., cancelled the ATM card, and sure enough, the thieves tried again at shortly after 7:15 a.m., while I was following up the Harris Bank personnel. Harris did cover the loss since a fair amount of customers made Police reports (I was told 11 complaints had made complaints by 1 p.m., the next afternoon). I am concerned that this is reoccuring and Harris Bank has not come up with a procedure, whether manual or otherwise, to combat this effort. Since it is a branch location ATM which requires your ATM card for entry after hours, it should be possible to automatically e-mail a account holders , (based on the card information from the card that opened the Harris Bank door), so they know someone has used their card. While this would create a lot of e-mail traffic, it's better than banks/customers being robbed blindly. This is just one minor suggestion. If crooks can use technology, the banks have to fight back using technology.
Cherie McKeage April 01, 2011 at 02:27 PM
I had my ATM card, which I use very rarely, skimmed in the last several months for over $1500. I obtained the card last summer to travel and use while out of the country and then used it once at my banks lobby ATM machine last fall. The thieves purchased cell phone equipment in Washington State, and I noticed the theft by chance, when checking my bank account on line the morning it was taking place and immediately contacted my bank to deactivate the card. After investigation of this clearly fraudulent activity, my bank did finally refund the money to my account, after I complained through the Better Business Bureau-there are banking laws that address this and when I checked, I found most banks policies are to refund the money in a timely manner. I suggest you obtain an ATM card without VISA debit abilities-in my case the thieves did not need or use my PIN number to make the purchases by internet or telephone. I understand thieves have ways to read your card number in ways other than using a card reader at an ATM machine. It's scary-thieves are very creative.
George Slefo April 01, 2011 at 02:45 PM
Hi Cherie -- thank you for the comment. Harris Bank managed to get a good lead on the suspects recently, and you can read that here: http://skokie.patch.com/articles/thursday-blotter-ecstasy-bust-atm-skimming-suspects I've spoken to several experts, and they've told me the suspects are like ghosts -- even with their image caught on camera it is almost impossible to find or catch them. Also, after writing this story, I now yank and pull where I insert my card and cover my hand while entering my pin. Some may call me paranoid, but I've seen far too many of these reports. Hope all is well and thank you for the input.

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