The crime of bank-card “skimming” is on the rise in the Seattle region, reports the Seattle Times. In the past week alone, six people have been arrested for skimming nearly $1 million in bank and consumer losses, said U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan. The crime involves placement of tiny electronic “skimming” devices on ATMs to steal credit- or debit-card information from customers.
Such devices — some the size of a postage stamp and capable of holding information from thousands of cards — usually are coupled with hidden “pinhole” cameras focused on ATM keypads to record personal-identification numbers (PINs). The thieves synchronize the data from the skimmer with the video to match PINs to the bank-card data. They then forge new cards and use the PINs to access and drain customers’ accounts. Yesterday, authorities showed a “treasure trove” of devices seized by agents in recent searches, including tiny card readers secreted in realistic ATM faceplates molded from ceramic and plastic. More insidious are actual card slots, purchased from teller-machine manufacturers, outfitted by the thieves with card readers that can be downloaded through a USB port. Durkan said it’s estimated that skimming is a $1 billion-a-year crime.