Tampa Bay: BEWARE
According to a story in tonight’s online edition of the St. Petersburg Times, a fifty-eight (58) year-old Pasco County man noticed something odd at a drive-thru ATM machine last Saturday morning. When he tried to insert his ATM card, there seemed to be an odd piece of plastic attached to the ATM machine that was loose.
Wisely, the man removed it from the ATM at the Bank of America branch at 5242 Little Road in New Port RIchey. Because that Bank of America branch was closed, the man took it to another location and showed it to a bank teller. That bank then called the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.
The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office has determined that what the man found was a “skimming device” — an increasingly popular (among thieves, at least), small machine that scans and stores debit card numbers. The “skimming device” was planted at the ATM by identity thieves, along with a small camera aimed at the ATM’s keypad in the hope of capturing (your) personal identification numbers. Once these thieves obtain your debit card number from the “skimming device,” along with your PIN number from the hidden camera, these crafty, high-tech thieves can access and drain your bank account and/or life savings in a matter of minutes.
Kevin Doll, spokesman for the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, said this is the first report he’s heard of a “skimming device” being used in the county in his 12-year-career.
After reviewing the actual Bank of America ATM video, Pasco County Detectives have determined that someone wearing a hat and driving what appeared to be a Dodge minivan installed the “skimming device” at 8:35 a.m. last Saturday. Working in tandem, a second suspect wearing a baseball cap followed in a four-door BMW.
Less than ten (10) minutes later, the suspicious (and wise) Bank of America customer removed the “skimming device” and more than likely prevented numerous weekend, drive-thru ATM bankers from becoming victimized by this scam
According to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, the two (2) suspects returned to the ATM machine at 9:45 a.m. and removed the camera, which the customer didn’t notice. The camera, without the “skimming device,” is useless — and vice versa, said Detective Natalie McSwane of the Economic Crimes Unit at the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office. McSwane said these “skimming devices” are installed quickly and, unfortunately, are available for purchase online (Please finish this well-intended article before trying to find one online).
To protect yourself from thieves, McSwane said to “look for devices on ATMs and other card-swiping machines.”
“If it removes, then it’s probably not supposed to be there,” she said.
She also urged people to always shield their PINs when entering them on keypads — at ATMs, gas stations, grocery stores, etc., even if no one seems to be watching.
Anyone who knows anything about this case or who might have witnessed suspicious activity at this New Port Richey Bank of America branch last Saturday morning is asked to call Detective McSwane at 1-800-854-2862.
Please be safe out there and follow these tips to avoid falling prey to this and other types of Identity Theft scams.
Former Assistant State Attorney Nicholas J. Dorsten successfully prosecuted hundreds of Theft-Related Offenses during his tenure at the Pinellas County State Attorney’s Office.
Now, in private practice, Dorsten represents those accused of Criminal and Traffic-Related offenses throughout the Tampa Bay area. Mr. Dorsten also publishes this Tampa Bay Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog and writes for Examiner.com as their “St. Petersburg Crime Examiner.”
For more information, and/or to discuss your specific case with Mr. Dorsten, please contact the Blake & Dorsten, P.A. at 727.286.6141. You can also email Mr. Dorsten at: email@example.com
If your case requires an experienced and aggressive criminal defense, the Blake & Dorsten, P.A. will be there for you.