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'Skimmer' devices threaten area ATM users' funds

Original post made on Mar 24, 2008

ATM users beware -- cash machines can harbor an illegal credit- or bank-card copying device, known as a "skimmer." The Midpeninsula is experiencing a jump in skimming cases, which started around March 13.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, March 24, 2008, 10:39 PM

Comments (22)

Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 24, 2008 at 11:10 pm

Why did the police wait so long to alert us?

Posted by John
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 24, 2008 at 11:58 pm

Some of this information is old because I was heard about the problems at the Arco Station on San Antonio four months ago. That's why I always use cash to buy my gas!!!

Posted by Jim
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 25, 2008 at 9:40 am

What does a skimmer look like?

Posted by KL
a resident of another community
on Mar 25, 2008 at 10:28 am

Here's a good example of what a skimmer looks like:
Web Link

My question is, don't they have cameras in place around ATMs? Why can't they catch the thieves trying to install these?

Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2008 at 10:49 am

Thanks for this link, KL. The skimmer looks pretty real. I don't think I'd recognize it as a skimmer vs. the real ATM card slot.

Posted by ATM 4U
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2008 at 11:34 am

Criminals cash in on ATM crime
Web Link

ATM Fraud or ATM feature?
Web Link

A skimmer in position
Web Link

The skimmer fitting on the ATM machine
Web Link

The camera to capture your pin number
Web Link

Posted by JP
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2008 at 1:02 pm

I agree with everyone that the police should have alerted the citizens a long time ago. I only pump gas at that particular Arco station and always use my debit card. Usually its on my way to work and I am in too much of a hurry to notice any differences with the ATMs. I will definately have to be more cautious in the future.

Thanks for the pictures of what this device looks like.

Posted by Nate
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2008 at 1:26 pm

This is a good reminder to always cover your hand as you type your PIN. Without your PIN, your card's information is worthless to the thieves.

Posted by ATM Images
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Mar 26, 2008 at 8:22 pm

Why hasn't the police departments released the photos of the suspects to the media to assist them with identifying the suspects? They must have images of the suspects by now since the suspects used the information at other other ATMs. I am not sure the local police can solve this one alone? I am sure the public can assist more than they know. I would suspect that the suspect is not your local criminal that they know.

Posted by V
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 27, 2008 at 8:28 am

I think the reason people don't alert us is for the same reason they don't alert us about many other crimes - panic. I don't feel it's right for them to hold on this kind of information, especially when we pay an arm and a leg to live here and many of us work hard to keep the community clean - outreach and what not.

Posted by Bookem DannO
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 27, 2008 at 9:08 am

It is not so much panic as it is fear. The police fear the judgment of the public at their incompetence to track and capture these criminals.

There is this need for them to present themselves at the powerful blue line against the criminal element. Remember perception is reality. Too bad perception doesn't do the leg work to arrest these criminals.

To most of us it would be simple to use the bank ATM camera to see who these criminals are or observe the videos of them walking into the bank for an over the counter transaction.

I am tired of these over priced flat foots not working for their living. If this sounds like too much work remember the criminals will adapt, adjust and overcome. You, the police should be hard at work out thinking them.

Part of that thinking should involve the public that is knowledgeable, watchful and willing to assist in areas where you need the help.

Posted by Eric
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2008 at 10:10 am

I notice Wells Fargo has installed new ATMs at California Avenue and Midtown. Was this scam done with the old ATMs or the new ones?

Posted by Mike
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 27, 2008 at 11:05 am

Still sore about that parking ticket, huh Bookem?

Posted by Bookem DannO
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 27, 2008 at 12:24 pm

Not exactly Mike,

I am concerned with something beyond your hat size. Specifically that this type of operation is organized and planned. This "skimming" device is beyond the practical capability of your average thief. Based on the photos seen here in this thread it is manufactured from injected molded plastic requiring sophisticated and expensive machine tools, the device is embedded with high tech electronics well beyond the common bank robbers knowledge. Furthermore, there is a high probability that the criminal is conducting surveillance of the ATM machine while the skimmer is in place. This also injects, the likelihood that surveillance took place prior to the placement of the skimming device.

Now with that said these people are criminals and what you should be concerned with is what other type of crimes are possible with these charming people? Or to you is this just another low priority non-violent property crime?

It is imperative they are caught and prosecuted. At the least we should know what they look like and the ATM camera can show us their lovely faces. Palo Alto online should have the picture or pictures up on this site now.

Posted by Mike
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 27, 2008 at 1:32 pm

Anybody savvy enough to operate a sophisticated scam like this would be smart enough to evade an ATM security camera. Armchair policework is the easiest and least productive kind; don't call cops flat foots until you can walk in their shoes.

Posted by Yo Tango ATM
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Mar 27, 2008 at 5:54 pm

Looks like this has been happening for sometime.

CBS News December 6, 2002
Web Link

California prosecutor Howard Wise tells Bowen,
"At that time, frankly, I thought skimmers were an urban myth." - Guess Not. in 2004
Web Link

Posted by Watch Out
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 28, 2008 at 6:26 am

Fraud is so prevalent in Europe now that most people don't even use credit cards anymore. Their credit/debit card companies are way ahead of us in providing new technologies to secure their cards. I tried to pay for a dinner in London with cash and they wouldn't accept my 5 Pound notes because there is so much forgery!! All this is coming to us now!!!

Posted by KT
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 29, 2008 at 12:02 am

Skimmers are nothing new. Just beware of ATM machines where you have to swipe your card through the machine instead of inserting it into a slot. They were a big thing on the east coast a couple of summers ago and cost some banks a lot of money. Also, beware in restaurants....they will take your card and read/keep your information; next thing you know there are three of you that are spending your entire life savings in a few days. That could be a small fortune for some Palo Altoans.

Posted by GotMeToo
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 29, 2008 at 1:12 pm

I was one of the unlucky ones to have my card number "captured". I happened to speak with a Los Altos police officer, and he confirmed that several sites in the area had been hit, and that the thieves have been stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars here and in Los Angeles in the past couple of weeks. Some camera, somewhere, MUST have taken a recognizable picture! I hope they catch them soon and throw away the key!

Posted by econsplash
a resident of another community
on Apr 8, 2008 at 3:04 pm

To clarify the post from KT: Skimmers can be attached to both "swipe" as well as "slot" type ATMs. As "RedBox" <Web Link just announced, this can occur on other machines other than an ATM, and without using your PIN (skimmers have the ability to read your credit cards, which does not require a PIN).

Posted by Shane
a resident of another community
on Apr 21, 2008 at 2:13 pm

This happened to be over this past weekend (Apr. 19). After having been on vacation in Vegas and New Orleans, I am not sure where the skimmer picked up my card, but I believe it was more than likely here in the Bay Area (since we used cash and credit cards mostly on the trip). Someone made a duplicate copy of my ATM card and physically used it at a Walgreens store in a suburb of Chicago on Sat. They bought $490 worth of goods. We ate at a restaurant in Redwood City that day, and Bank of America realized we couldn't be in two places at the same time and reversed the charges, called us immediately and cancelled the card. I am thankful to them that they were on top of it. I usually only withdraw cash out of one particular bank near my house and buy my gas at the same gas station (not Arco by the way). I would guess it was an unscrupulous person at a restaurant somewhere that kept a copy of my card.

Posted by Jon
a resident of another community
on Apr 29, 2008 at 2:21 pm

I was on vacation in New Orleans last weekend (Apr. 25th) and this happened to me. I took out $60 and someone had two subsequent $200 withdrawals from the same ATM. I assume someone is preying on the large crowds in town for Jazzfest.

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