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Santa Fe police warn of ATM skimmers

December 5, 2018

Another entry from the bah-humbug files: Santa Fe police are investigating almost a dozen cases of suspected card skimming at First National 1870 bank.

Bank customers started reporting suspicious account activity in early November, Santa Fe police Lt. Paul Joye said. Since then, officers have tied 11 cases to suspected card skimming at ATMs at two First National locations, 100 Sandoval St. and 2021 Cerrillos Road.

The bank was quick to notify police when they caught word of the issues, Joye said, and police have been working closely with First National to address the skimmers.

First National 1870’s Northern New Mexico regional president, Scott Czarniak, didn’t respond to messages Tuesday seeking comment on how the bank has addressed machines that have been tampered with, or what kind of recourse is available for customers who have been defrauded.

A card skimmer is a device attached to an ATM or other card reader that captures card information. Fraudsters can use that information to make purchases or withdraw money from accounts.

In total, Joye said, First National users have reported more than $20,000 in losses. Police are reviewing video surveillance at the bank’s ATMs to identify suspects in the skimming cases, Joye said. In the meantime, he said, bank users should keep an eye on their account activity.

“The important thing right now is to have people check their accounts, monitor their credit and look for any abnormalities,” Joye said.

Online tutorials for spotting card skimmers suggest people look for card readers that don’t seem to match the ATM and might have been installed on top of an existing card reader, signs of tampering, or a card reader or keypad that feels loose.

However, Joye said, it would have been impossible for someone to spot the skimmers used in the First National ATMs.

“There is really no way to tell from the outside that the skimmer is being used with these,” Joye said. “We weren’t sure until recently that they were linked to a skimmer.”

In at least one of the ATMs in question, a camera was installed to record users’ PINs while they entered their cards, Joye said. He recommended that ATM users cover the key pad to block it from view of a potential camera while they enter sensitive information.

The recent fraud reports are not the first in the area. In early 2017, Los Alamos National Bank employees found skimmers at drive-thru ATMs at two of their branches. In February, Albuquerque police arrested one man and said they were looking for three others in a suspected skimming scheme at gas station ATMs there, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

The First National skimmers are not the only ones police have been investigating at Santa Fe banks, Joye said. He wouldn’t say much more about the cases, which are still being investigated, but he did say police have not responded to any calls about skimming concerns at gas stations in the city.

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