SAN FRANCISCO POLICE ISSUE ATM FRAUD ALERT
By Adam Martin, Bay City News
January 25, 2006
SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - The San Francisco Police
Department has issued a security warning to users of automated
teller machines after one such machine was found to have a device
attached that recorded users' ATM card information.
Police officers discovered the device on Jan. 9
after a citizen called and reported seeing it on a Market Street
The device fits on the machine's card slot, where
it reads the information encoded on the card's magnetic strip,
Inspector Earl Wismer of the department's fraud detail said in
an interview today.
In addition to the reading device, a camera had
been installed inside a convex mirror, angled so it would record
footage of customers' personal identification numbers.
"We have information that this device was seen
on this machine on and off for several days. The earliest someone
reported seeing it was around the 27th or 28th of December,''
Once the ATM card information is recorded onto the
device, Wismer said, the suspect removes the device, brings it
home and downloads the information. The information then can be
recorded onto any similarly sized plastic card with a magnetic
strip, Wismer said. Driver's licenses, hotel keycards and other
ATM or credit cards can all hold the information. The crook then
uses the visually recorded PIN to drain the account.
The ATM where the device was found does have its
own security camera, and investigators are currently reviewing
footage from the camera, Wismer said. "We're talking a couple
of weeks worth of tape. It's a labor-intensive investigation,''
In addition to reviewing the footage from the affected
ATM, Wismer said investigators will ask the bank to inform them
of when and where the illegally obtained information was used,
so that they can review footage from security cameras at those
Wismer reported that the ATM to which the device
was attached is owned and operated by a major bank, but he would
not say which one. Customers of other banks, he said, might get
lulled into a "false sense of security'' if they thought
the problem lay with only one institution.
Customers who think they might have been victims
of this crime should closely review their bank statements and
alert the bank to any suspect charges, Wismer said.
In addition, the Police Department urges bank customers
to inspect their ATM machines before using them and to report
anything unusual to the proprietor of the machine and to police.
So far, San Francisco police have only had reports
of such a device at one ATM. Other, similar cases have been reported
in other Bay Area cities and in Sacramento, according to the department.
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