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Dec 30, 2011 2:46 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Westhampton Beach ATM Users Bilked Out Of Money

Jan 3, 2012 5:44 PM

At least two Westhampton Beach residents were scammed out of thousands of dollars recently when they withdrew funds from a Chase bank ATM in the village.

According to Westhampton Beach Village Police Lieutenant Trevor Gonce, authorities were notified on December 16 that a “skimmer” device had been installed on the ATM at the Chase branch located at 154 Main Street.

A skimmer device, Lt. Gonce explained, is installed on an ATM and reads information from a card’s magnetic strip while, at the same time, a small camera photographs an individual entering his or her PIN on the keypad. A high-tech thief can then utilize the illegally obtained information to withdraw money from private accounts.

Incidents of con artists using skimmers are sweeping the nation, with thousands of dollars reportedly being stolen from unsuspecting ATM users in many states.

“This is the first one used in the Hamptons—that we know about,” Lt. Gonce said. “This is prevalent around the United States.”

Funds in the amount of $2,600 and $5,000, respectively, were stolen from two customers’ accounts after they used the ATM machine on December 11, police said. “People’s cards were compromised at that time,” Lt. Gonce said.

In addition, Lt. Gonce said Southampton Town Police said that a number of residents living outside the village had also reported losing money from their accounts after using the same Chase ATM. Other losses may have occurred, Lt. Gonce added, but were not reported to police. Since the bank is responsible for the monetary losses, some individuals may have gone directly to bank management to rectify the situation.

Mary Jane Rogers, a media relations specialist for Chase, said she was unable to comment on the specifics of the incident. “We work with law enforcement to try and prevent crimes and solve them,” she said.

Ms. Rogers advised customers who notice unusual activity in their accounts to alert bank officials immediately, and also contact the bank if they see anything suspicious about an ATM machine. “Most important, if we confirm a transaction was not initiated by the customer, the customer has zero liability,” she assured.

Lt. Gonce said this week that Village Police do not have any surveillance video of the criminals who installed the skimming device on the ATM. The device was confiscated by authorities last month.

With an eye toward future prevention, Lt. Gonce said Village Police went to local banks to educate personnel about the skimmers. “We showed them pictures of the device and made sure they had some kind of ATM security program—which most of them did,” he said.

In order to scam unsuspecting customers, a skimmer, which is comprised of two parts, is installed on an ATM. The first piece, used to lift information from the ATM card, completely covers the area where the card is inserted and is held in place with glue; the second piece is placed on the ATM screen and contains a pinhole camera through which the PIN number is stolen. The camera is a double-battery device held up by double-stick tape and resembles a memory card used in a camera, Lt. Gonce said.

According to Michael Seremetis, resident agent in charge at the Long Island Resident Office of the U.S. Secret Service in Melville, the construction of skimming devices can vary, since each ATM machine is configured differently. He added that the devices are manufactured for legitimate purposes, and typically used by waiters and waitresses in restaurants. “Unfortunately, they can also be found on the internet for use by the general public,” he said.

He added that they can be purchased online for as little as $300, and the additional equipment and supplies required to make fake ATM cards—needed to withdraw stolen cash—typically cost between $5,000 and $10,000. According to reports, the ATM cards can also be constructed from gift cards, hotel key access cards, or any card that features a magnetic strip that can download information.

To avoid being victimized, Mr. Seremetis advised customers to protect their PINs when entering them on ATMs. He explained that counterfeit cards cannot work without PINs.

Bank customers need to be wary, Lt. Gonce advised, and should always cover their hands while keying in their PIN numbers. He also urged customers to immediately contact their bank if the appearance of an ATM has been altered in any way.

Lt. Gonce added that it is not a crime to own a skimmer device; only when the device is installed and a suspect is caught with a device containing personal data will an individual be charged with criminal possession of a forgery device, a felony punishable by up to seven years in jail.

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Too bad there isn't a security cam watching the ATM, you might have a better chance of catching this perp... Or was there one ??
By Bill in Riverhead (190), Riverhead on Dec 31, 11 10:51 AM
Exactly- the banks should all have working cams as should the town around the Village area.
By realistic (472), westhampton on Dec 31, 11 12:00 PM
The village has security cameras around the village,look up on the telephone poles and smile, you're on candid camera I don't know why or what they do , or how long they keep the tapes Maybe they will help the investigation ?
By Shock (48), on Jan 1, 12 3:29 PM
But- are they working? Can the Mayor or Police Chief comment?
By realistic (472), westhampton on Jan 4, 12 10:21 PM
There might be cameras on the ATMs but no one will really notice a scanner gadget where you insert your card. My advice--LOOK at the slot before you dip your card, and be vigilant about where you are. CHECK the screen for anything affixed to it. If you're worried, just take your money out the old-school way.But in these desperate times, people will do anything for a dollar bill, so we have to do our part and pay attention.
By **HBQueenBee** (46), Hampton Bays on Jan 5, 12 11:36 AM