Credit Card / ATM “Skimming” On the Rise
With how much we depend on plastic currency, it was only a matter of time before thieves also turned their attention from cash to ATM cards and credit. Incidences of “skimming”, the process of stealing vital account information from ATMs, is on the rise in the area, with one U.S. Attorney being the latest victim, according to the Seattle Times.
Perpetrators of these crimes place tiny devices in ATMs to scan your card as you use the machine. These devices can be as small as a postage stamp and virtually unnoticeable to the untrained eye. But the small skimming devices are able to give thieves a treasure trove of income, amounting to an estimated $1 billion-a-year crime.
U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan is out at least $1,000 after skimmers got her information from an ATM in Seattle. In the past week, six people have been arrested in the state, responsible for skimming about $1 million.
Some of the defendants in these cases are here illegally, pointing to a possible international connection and larger criminal ring. Durkan says it’s believed they have “located and dismantled the nerve center of one of the most prolific rings, which used illegal immigrants from Romania to commit the frauds.” Some of these same defendants have been skimming from European accounts as well.
These aren’t low level thefts. Unlike a purse snatcher, a skimmer has access to your entire account, potentially having the ability to “clean you out” in a matter of seconds.
The thieves mount a card reader on the targeted ATM and a small camera to record customers PIN numbers being entered on the keypad. They then transfer the card information to gift cards and are able to have access to your account with a card that may look nothing like yours, but contain all of the information needed to access your account.
Because thefts from these devices usually involve large amounts of money, the suspects face very serious felony charges. A generic, non-skimming, theft is usually valued at less than $250 and is considered a Gross Misdemeanor. But, when that amount rises above $250, which it does in most skimming cases, the charge qualifies as a felony.
Whether you are accused of being a part of a skimming ring or simply stealing cash from another person, you are up against potentially serious penalties. Consulting with a criminal defense lawyer about your case can help you determine what options are available and the best direction to take.
Contact our offices today for help on your Washington theft case.