Secret Service: Cybercrime ‘Skimming’ Cases on the Rise in North Carolina

March 3, 2015

The U.S. Secret Service says “skimming,” a cybercrime which targets automatic teller machines and gasoline pumps and the people who use them, is on the rise in the Charlotte, N.C., area.

The Charlotte Observer reports that the Secret Service reports that since October, it has investigated 11 skimming incidents involving at least nine suspects, in a region spanning from Greensboro to Asheville. Most cases have been in Charlotte.

That’s more than double the four incidents involving three suspects during the year prior to October.

According to the Secret Service, the growth in ATM skimming in the region is largely driven by eastern European criminal groups. Federal criminal charges were filed last year against four men accused of using a Concord hotel as a base of operations for their skimming scheme.

Glen Kessler, a special agent with Secret Service’s Charlotte office, said North Carolina’s largest city is among major U.S. metropolitan areas that are prime targets for eastern European criminal groups who want easy access to ATMs near interstates.

The interstates that pass through Charlotte allow criminals to “hit a number of cities on their way through Charlotte,” he said.

In general, skimming involves criminals placing devices on ATMs to steal account data when consumers slip their debit or credit cards into the card reader. Tiny cameras or fraudulent keypad overlays installed by criminals on the ATM can be used to capture PINs.

Criminals can use the stolen information to make online purchases or to reprogram a gift card or other cards with magnetic stripes on the back that can then be used to make purchases in stores.

Skimming equipment itself is becoming more advanced, experts say. In some cases, criminals are using wireless technology to download stolen card data, eliminating the need for them to retrieve the equipment from the ATM.

It’s also getting easier for criminals to purchase the gear they need – and learn how to use it –online.

“You can buy skimming equipment on eBay and a number of other sites,” Kessler said. Videos on YouTube offer instruction on how to install the equipment, he said.

Criminals are setting their sights on ATMs at a time when some banks are rolling out more of the machines as fewer customers are entering branches to conduct basic transactions. Rising ATM use also means criminals can capture data on more consumers.

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