2012-02-10 / Front Page

Skim Scammers

Local Bank Hit By ATM Thieves
By Howard Schwach


Top photo: The scammers use small cameras to “read” the PIN as it is entered by the customer. Top photo: The scammers use small cameras to “read” the PIN as it is entered by the customer. The problem of thugs using bank skimmers to take thousands of dollars from unwitting bank customers has been around for more than a year, and the scam has finally hit Rockaway, locals report.

Rockaway Park resident Patricia Comer is one of those locals who has been hit by the high-tech scammers.

“I did my regular banking at the HSBC Bank on Beach 116 Street on Thursday and Saturday, and everything was fine,” Comer told The Wave on Tuesday afternoon. “On Monday, somebody used my card to take a significant amount of money from my account at an ATM at a Citibank branch in Queens.” Comer is not alone. Another local, who asked not to be identified, said that the same thing happened to her at a local Citibank branch.

Comer said that detectives from the 100 Precinct corroborated that she was not the only local who had been hit by the scam recently and that the squad was working on solving the crime.


A customer at the HSBC Bank on Beach 116 Street reported that her debit card had been skimmed after she used the bank’s ATM machine last week. A customer at the HSBC Bank on Beach 116 Street reported that her debit card had been skimmed after she used the bank’s ATM machine last week. Captain Scott Olexa, the commanding officer of the 100 Precinct, says that there has been an “uptick” in credit card problems at banks and gas stations.

Olexa says that the key is not giving up your PIN. He suggests holding one hand over the keypad while you enter your PIN, keeping prying eyes at bay.

How does the scam work?

According to a national bank fraud website, a team of organized criminals install the equipment on legitimate bank ATM’s to steal both the ATM card number and the PIN.

The team sits nearby in a car receiving the information transmitted wirelessly over weekends and evenings from equipment they install on the front of the ATM.


Right photo: A skimmer such as this is inserted into the ATM, reading the magnetic strip of every card that is inserted. Right photo: A skimmer such as this is inserted into the ATM, reading the magnetic strip of every card that is inserted. They often use legitimate cards to access the ATMs at a time when nobody else is around, disguising themselves from the ATM cameras.

The equipment used to capture your ATM card number and PIN are cleverly disguised to look like normal ATM equipment.

A “skimmer” is mounted to the front of the normal ATM card slot that reads the ATM card number and transmits it to the criminals sitting in a nearby car.

At the same time, a wireless camera is disguised to look like a leaflet holder and is mounted in a position to view ATM PIN entries.

The thieves copy the cards and use the PIN numbers they garnered though the camera to withdraw thousands from many accounts in a very short time directly from the bank ATM.

Bank officials say that if you see an attachment that looks out of place, do not use the ATM and report it immediately to the bank using the 800 number or phone on the front of the ATM or call 911 for police assistance.

Officials at HSBC declined to comment for the story, except to say that they are working to remediate the problem.

Bank experts tell customers to cover the keys as they are entering their PIN, because that will keep the scammers from using their card.

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