‘Tech-savvy’ generation falling victim to Internet and ATM fraud

Bethany Jones

Be cautious when using ATMs outside of bank locations

In a time when identity theft and credit card fraud is on the rise, Northeast Ohioans may be happy to know that ATM fraud has not been a huge problem.

According to the Secret Service Web site, www.secretservice.gov, credit card fraud accounts for a loss of $1 billion annually.

What to do if you have been a victim:

What to do if you have been a victim:

1. If the complaint is non-criminal, immediately dispute the charges in writing with the public relations department of your credit card company.

2. Report a crime to police immediately and have a copy of your police report and case number.

3. Contact your credit card issuer and get a replacement card with new account numbers immediately. Ask that the old account be processed as “account closed at consumer’s request.”

4. Report the theft of your credit card to one of three credit reporting bureaus:

• Equifax Credit Information Services

Tel: (800) 997-2493


• Experian

Tel: (888) 397-3742


• TransUnion Fraud Victim Assistance Department

Tel: (800) 680-7289


Source: www.secretservice.gov

David Lee, resident agent in charge of the Akron office of the Secret Service, said he usually sees about five cases of ATM fraud each year. Privately owned ATMs tend to be the problem, he said.

“We strongly suggest people be real careful when they use an ATM at a minimart or gas station,” he said. “Not to imply people at the store are doing anything wrong; it could be people who own or install the machine.

“More often than not, they don’t get a whole lot of money, they just need a quick fix. One-hundred dollars here, $100 there, may get them through the night, but $200 is a significant amount to somebody.”

Lee said the real concern is when employees use hand-held skimmers to compromise credit cards at restaurants or bars.

Skimming devices

According to the Visa Web site, skimming devices record and store credit card account information. The device steals information from the card’s magnetic strip. That information is put onto a counterfeit card and is used to make fraudulent purchases. Most of the devices are small and portable and may resemble a pager.

Purchasing ATMs

Rob Evans, director of industry marketing for NCR Corporation, one of the largest ATM manufacturers, said his company sold its first ATM in 1979. He said high-tech fraud started to become a notable problem within the last four years.

Evans said about 33 different companies manufacture ATMs. He estimates that in the United States, there are close to 400,000 and about 100,000 have the NCR logo.

Evans said direct sales representatives sell most ATMs, and the average consumer could not purchase an ATM from NCR. However, he said lower-level manufacturers sell to the general public.

“One of our competitors has listed their product at Sam’s Club,” he said.

Evans said it is also possible for consumers to get ATMs from refurbishing companies.

“They purchase old machines, refurbish them and resell them, and we have nothing to do with that,” he said.

Consumer tips to avoid becoming a victim of ATM fraud:

1. Check your bank state immediately.

2. Periodically check your account balance and transactions.

3. If your card is lost or stolen, contact your bank immediately.

4. Keep records or card numbers, PINs, expiration dates and 1-800 numbers for your bank.

5. Do not use your phone number, social security number, birthday or address for your pin. Memorize it so you do not have to store the number with your card.

6. Keep your receipts to check your statement. If your bank number is on them, tear them up of shred them before your throw them away.

7. Mark through blank spaces on debit slips such as the tip line at restaurants.

8. Be careful when people try to help you, including when the ATM “eats” your card.

Source: American Banker Association at www.aba.com

Area ATM fraud

Lt. Ray Stein has worked for the Kent Police Department for nearly 28 years and said he has never encountered the recovery of a skimming device.

“I’m not aware of any in the city of Kent, and I can’t speak for other local jurisdictions,” he said. “The problem is when you have less-than-reputable people working in restaurants or stores.”

Stein said he had one incident in Kent where a person working at a local bar swiped a patron’s credit card and later did another authorization on the same card.

“People are using their debit cards and credit cards a little more frequently than cash,” he said. “When they get their statement from their bank, they should be verifying their transactions. The victim has to become vigilant.”

On Campus

Lt. Carl Sweigert of the Kent State University Police Department said he has never seen a skimming device used on a campus ATM machine.

“Generally the biggest problem we have with ATM machines is when someone forgets their card,” he said. “We’ve had a couple handfuls of cases of those within the last few years.”

Sweigert said most ATMs on campus are located in high-traffic areas and most have security cameras.

Huntington Bank supplies the majority of ATMs used on campus.

Terry Neal, regional security manager for Huntington Bank, has worked in his position for 28 years. Neal said in that time he has never seen a skimming device used on campus but has seen one at an ATM in Streetsboro.

“It was a case to where they had something over the depository and actually attached a box. Believe it or not people would put deposits in the device,” he said. “Unless you actually catch them while they are on the machine, it’s going to be hard to detect.”

What to watch for

John Hall, associate director of public relations of the American Bankers Association, said there are nearly 10 billion ATM transactions a year, and only one-half of 1 percent are fraudulent.

Hall said consumers should be aware of discolored card readers or unresponsive keypads. They must also be aware of shoulder surfers, people who try to stand and watch customers enter their pin number. Hall said if a person has a card reader they can create a new card using the pin number.

Hall said banks will refund the money of all unauthorized transactions after an investigation takes place. As long as you have not done something irresponsible such as writing a pin number on a debit card, there is usually not a problem, he said.

Visa offers a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone involved in manufacturing or using counterfeit cards.

The consequences

Scott Wilson, special agent and spokesman for the FBI, said the FBI does not keep statistics on white-collar crime.

Wilson said the majority of ATMs have cameras that actively take photographs. He said with media help, they often broadcast pictures just like they would with a bank robber.

Wilson said most ATM robberies are state crimes that do not reach the federal threshold.

“The severity of the punishment is usually based on how much money is taken,” he said. “Once in a while we have a rash of ATM thefts. They will try to steal whole ATM units.”

Wilson said if someone steals an ATM machine or breaks into an ATM, the money is federally insured.

“Criminals are opportunistic; you have to be careful and watch out around your surroundings, he said. If someone comes up to help you, do not, do not provide any information for them.”

Contact enterprise reporter Bethany Jones [email protected].