Crime

This ATM bandit may have swiped your money. He’s now in a Portland jail

How to spot a skimmer at a gas pump or ATM

Eric Vitale, fraud investigation specialist with the San Luis Obispo, Calif., Police Department, demonstrates how to spot a card skimmer on an ATM, gas pump or other card reader. He also offers advice for keeping your PIN and card information safe
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Eric Vitale, fraud investigation specialist with the San Luis Obispo, Calif., Police Department, demonstrates how to spot a card skimmer on an ATM, gas pump or other card reader. He also offers advice for keeping your PIN and card information safe

A man suspected of helping to siphon off at least $100,000 from Tri-Citians’ bank accounts was arrested recently in Portland.

The alleged thief was one of several ATM bandits who rolled into town in early February and conducted one of the largest skimming operations in the Tri-Cities in recent memory.

His name was not released by Pasco police, who announced the arrest on a Facebook post.

Police said the man was picked up on Saturday. He reportedly is from Romania with a counterfeit passport.

The U.S. Secret Service has taken over the investigation and will pursue federal charges, the post said.

Detective Julie Lee handled the investigation for Pasco. She “was able to network with several other detectives nationwide to develop info on who these people were and what routes they were traveling,” said the post.

Skimmer
The man in the green coat, suspected of siphoning money from Tri-Citians’ bank accounts in February, has been arrested in Portland. Tri-City Herald

Tri-Cities ATM thefts

The first reports about the bandits surfaced around Feb. 13, when the man in the green jacket and knit cap took out money from HAPO ATMs across the Tri-Cities using information stolen from accounts.

In the car with him was a man wearing a dark jacket and a scarf across his face. That man was caught in other images at ATMs, appearing to wear fake glasses and a false nose.

During the following week, the number of victims in Kennewick, Richland and Pasco quickly grew from 25 to more than 200.

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.

“In the meantime, other felonious ne’er-do-wells are out there, doing the same thing,” Pasco police posted. “Be cautious when using your debit card on a strange ATM or scanner.”

The scammers work in teams.

They attach skimming devices on card readers, get the data from the magnetic strip on cards, steal the money and leave town, all in a matter of days.

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

Kristin M. Kraemer covers the judicial system and crime issues for the Tri-City Herald. She has been a journalist for more than 20 years in Washington and California.
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