Crime

ATM bandit raids 100 Kennewick bank accounts. More than $75,000 stolen

How to avoid becoming debit card fraud victim

Sgt. Aaron Clem of the Kennewick Police Department offers tips on minimizing the risk of becoming a victim of debit card fraud when making purchases in a store or at the gas pumps.
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Sgt. Aaron Clem of the Kennewick Police Department offers tips on minimizing the risk of becoming a victim of debit card fraud when making purchases in a store or at the gas pumps.

Detectives continue to hunt for the culprit behind a series of thefts in the Tri-Cities as the number of victims climbs.

Kennewick victims alone have lost more than $75,000, said police. The number of victims just in Kennewick has grown to about 100 people, said Officer Zach Moore.

Officers released pictures of the man taking money from a HAPO credit union ATM last week, as well as his passenger. It’s unclear whether he has moved to other banks or if other people are using cards.

The thieves’ methods haven’t changed. They are using stolen debit card information loaded onto counterfeit cards and taking large amounts of money out of ATMs.

Initially, beginning Feb. 15, there were 25 cases across the Tri-Cities. The amount has been steadily mounting during the course of this week.

Pasco police report they have not had any additional cases since the initial reports. The amount of people impacted in other sections of the Tri-Cities was not available.

The people identified as connected to the thefts are a man who was dressed in a green jacket with a white knit cap and another man who was in the car at the same time.

Skimmer
Pasco police are trying to find information about this man who tried using 25 stolen credit card accounts to steal money at HAPO Credit Union branches Tri-City Herald

Police believe the bandits are getting the information using a skimmer. They found one attached to a card reader at a Chevron at the corner of McMurray Street and Jadwin Avenue. It’s unclear how many others might be in the area.

Skimmers are a piece of equipment that fits over a card reader and captures the information from the magnetic strip as someone slides it in. In many cases, they also come along with a small camera that captures the victim’s PIN.

People can spot them by looking for tampering and also wiggling the card reader. If the device seems loose or not working correctly, a skimmer might be attached.

Richland skimmer Chevron
A Tri-City fraud operation has swiped more than $30,000 from bank accounts in less than a week and police say some of the account numbers and possibly PIN’s were stolen with a skimmer at Joe’s Chevron on the corner of McMurray Street and Jadwin Avenue in Richland. Bob Brawdy Tri-City Herald

Kennewick Sgt. Aaron Clem also suggested people use the computer chip on their bank cards instead of the magnetic strip whenever possible. If you must use the magnetic strip option, select credit card instead of debit and enter a ZIP code instead of a PIN code.

Also, you can cover your hand while punching in your personal identification number to shield if from hidden cameras.

Anyone with information on the suspects or a suspected skimmer is asked to call the non-emergency dispatch number at 509-628-0333.

Cameron Probert covers breaking news and education for the Tri-City Herald, where he tries to answer readers’ questions about why police officers and firefighters are in your neighborhood. He studied communications at Washington State University.


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