ATM skimmers steal your info in seconds, becoming more popular - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

ATM skimmers steal your info in seconds, becoming more popular

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By Jody Barr - email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Investigators say you can get cleaned out in seconds when you unknowingly slip a debit card through a crook's skimming device.
     
It's a new crime, and now the Secret Service and the State Law Enforcement Division say card skimming cases are up, five times higher, so far this year. Crooks can steal every dime you own in seconds, and you won't even know it.

"This is actually a skimming device that was recovered from one of the local area grocery stores, here in Columbia," said Secret Service Agent Mike Williams as he showed a device agents found about a month ago.
     
The skimmer came from an ATM outside the Harbison Publix. A crook put it on the machine, and stole electronic data from dozens of debit cards. The Secret Service spent 12 hours waiting for the crook to come back for the skimmer, but the crook never showed before agents took the device as evidence.

"The actual transactions were able to go though, but all their electronic information from that magnetic stripe was actually captured by this little device right here," Williams said.

Luckily, agents took the skimmer off the ATM before the bad guys could download the information and create a new batch of victims.

A quick search online, and you could buy dozens of different card skimmers. One YouTube user claims you could earn $75,000 a week using skimmers to steal "easy money" without anyone knowing.

"We recognize that we cannot do this alone," said Williams.

To combat skimmers, the Secret Service and SLED combined forces in 2003 to create the state's Electronic Crimes Task Force. The force stretches from the Upstate to the Pee Dee, and across the Midlands to the Lowcountry. Its 27 investigators are dedicated to tracking cyber criminals, never taking a day off.
     
"You've got a generation of folks who engage in criminal activity who are very comfortable with the technology," said SLED Director Reggie Lloyd

Lloyd says the face of cyber crime is changing. Street gangs use cyber crimes as ways to fund operations and reduce the chances of getting caught.

"They could be the folks we're used to doing the car jackings and dope deals who are now moving into white collar," said Lloyd. "They really see it as a way to extract a lot more money from their victims and probably a less likelihood of being caught."

Last year the secret service found two card scamming devices in South Carolina. So far this year, they've recovered 10 devices.
     
"You can place these devices, very quick, very easy to install on these ATMs and travel up the state," said Williams.

Williams calls the I-95 corridor a target-rich environment. The straight shot along the state's eastern edge allows cyber criminals to do their crimes and disappear in seconds. This surveillance video shows a cyber crook installing a skimmer, in less than 40 seconds.
 
"On your way back, just collect these ATM skimmers," said Williams.

The secret service is closing in on suspects working inside South Carolina and running skimming rings for a group centered thousand of miles away in Bulgaria. Investigators say preventing cyber crimes starts with card owners.

"When you go to that ATM and just pause for a quick second and take a look at that card reader, if that card reader looks a little bit different, a little unusual. Take the next step and see if you can move it," said Williams. "You can see that this device was simply attached to the ATM with two-sided tape."

Many card skimmers install miniature cameras to steal your pin. Agents suggest you always cover your hand when you enter your pin at an ATM.
     
Skimming is a crime that targets everyone, rich and poor.

"It's something that's new," said Williams. "We've seen a spike in it and again, it's very important for us to alert the general public."

Skimmers are also placed on gas pumps, and any other machine that allows you to pay with a debit or credit card. Investigators have caught restaurant servers carrying card skimmers the size of a cigarette lighter, stealing your information and selling that to a cyber criminal.
     
The easiest way to help save yourself is to keep a close eye on your bank statements. It only takes a few seconds for a cyber crook to upload your electronic information to the Internet and send it across the world.

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