Thousands of dollars taken from bank accounts linked to ATM card skimmer

By Mary Pat Flaherty and Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Thousands of dollars in unauthorized withdrawals were made from bank accounts in the Washington area after a skimming device was attached to an ATM in Alexandria, authorities said.

The device, which captures bank card information, was spotted Feb. 28 at a Wachovia branch in the 3600 block of King Street. Alexandria police said several customers have reported fraudulent charges, with total losses estimated at more than $60,000.

In a possibly related development, a Wachovia customer who uses a branch on Connecticut Avenue in upper Northwest Washington said he was notified Monday that his card had been compromised and that $1,500 had been taken over three days.

He said that he was not told how the card was compromised but that he learned the same thing had happened to others.

Over the years, thieves have used data captured by electronic skimmers to counterfeit bank cards to withdraw money.

The device, which includes a slot for insertion of the card, is usually fastened to the front of the ATM. Sometimes, additional equipment is used to capture PINs.

In the Alexandria incident, an ATM technician who was working on the machine photographed the skimmer about 1:30 p.m. and went into the branch to notify officials. When he returned, the device was gone.

In 2008, a man pleaded guilty in federal court in Alexandria to stealing more than $200,000 with a skimming device. Money was reportedly taken from more than 70 accounts at bank branches in Maryland and Virginia.

A 2009 report in the Richmond Times Dispatch, quoting law enforcement officials, said skimming losses around the world are in the billions. It said about $500,000 was obtained last year from 100 Virginia victims.

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