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April 26, 2012 at 11:23 AM

Snohomish Co. woman honored for helping bust ‘skimming’ ring

A Snohomish County woman was honored this morning by U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan for her role in helping bring down a prolific ATM “skimming” ring. 

The woman’s 911 call to Bothell police in December 2010, after seeing men withdrawing large amounts of cash from a Canyon Park ATM, set in motion an investigation that led to the dismantling of the ring, according to the  U.S. Attorney’s Office.

After the woman called 911, three Bothell officers on their lunch break at the same Canyon Park shopping center also observed similar suspicious activity. Officers arrested one suspect in the car reported by the woman and a second suspect was apprehended by detectives as he tried to leave the area on foot. 

The initial investigation determined that both men were Romanian nationals who were in the U.S. illegally. Police also recovered evidence of their skimming activity, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

The arrests led authorities to the leaders of the ring, which accounted for more than a million dollars in losses to banks and consumers. 

The woman who was honored has asked to remain anonymous.

“As a victim of skimming, I know the mix of anger, frustration and helplessness you feel when you discover someone has raided your bank account,” Durkan said during a news conference at the Bothell Police Department.  “While I was victimized by a different theft ring, I know the quick work in this case saved many other people from becoming victims, and helped bring the defendants to justice.”

Skimming involves the placement of tiny electronic devices on ATMs to steal credit- or debit-card information from customers. Such devices — some the size of a postage stamp and capable of holding information from thousands of cards — usually are coupled with hidden “pinhole” cameras focused on ATM keypads to record personal-identification numbers (PINs).

The thieves synchronize the data from the skimmer with the video to match PINs to the bank-card data. They then forge new cards and use the PINs to access and drain customers’ accounts.

To see how skimming works and learn how to avoid being victimized, click here.

Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: ATM skimming, Bothell, Bothell Police Department

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