A N.Y. man likely saved many bank customers a big headache this week when he pulled off an ATM skimmer installed by an exploiter at a local bank.
According to the Long Island Press, a Capital One bank customer had gone to an ATM to withdraw some cash at 8:15 a.m. Sunday in Valley Stream, Long Island.
When Kevin Ferraro slipped his card into the ATM, he felt something was off when he felt it stick.
The 39-year-old man noticed the machine was loose, gave it a tug, and a recording device fell off right into his hands.
"Just before I put my code in, I said, let me check out this ATM because, you know, you hear stories on the news. And as I went to wiggle where you put it in, it was loose and I pulled it right off in my hand," Ferraro told NBC News.
Nassau police confirmed the ATM had a skimmer taped to the machine, and also found a camera hidden that was aimed to capture customer PIN numbers as they type in the keypad.
Ferraro said the skimmer contained "a lot of technology". He said the skimmer had a USB port, scan disc, "everything to store a lot of information."
Nassau authorities are currently seeking to find those behind the ATM scam.
Skimming has become big business. ATM scams are unfortunately becoming more frequent, but ATM stations are not the only machines targeted. Using a debit card at the store can be risky, and pay-from-the-pump gas station have also created scam victims.
Last year Michael's stores discovered its PIN pads were tampered with in various stores in 20 states. Fraudsters also often attach devices to gas pumps and/or sit in the vicinity with a laptop or other wireless device and intercept data as it is transferred from the pump to the store.
In 2010 Avivah Litan, a fraud analyst at Gartner, estimated that frauds which involve debit cards, PINs and point-of-sale (POS) equipment had "surged" 400 percent in the previous five years.
Earlier this month Federal officials arrested Laurentiu Iulian Bulat, a Romanian citizen who allegedly placed skimmers on over 40 ATMs in the New York City area. Bulat is accused of participating in a fraud ring that netted at least $1.5 million between May 2011 and Jan. 5, 2012.
"ATM skimmers are high-tech bank robbers. Instead of using a gun and a note, skimmers use fake card readers and hidden cameras to steal a customer's information to get to that customer's money and take it," said Manhattan U.S. attorney Preet Bharara, in a statement. "Often it happens completely undetected."
Unfortunately ATM and other skimming scams are a real risk in the modern day. Often these devices are hard to detect as they may be designed to 'fit' with the machine naturally. Other skimmers may be inserted into the ATM and not be as visible to the consumer. Any error message returned should be perceived as questionable as this may be a warning sign that a device may be trying to intercept your debit card data. If anything feels amiss, report it immediately to the bank. As good practice, it is advised to always cover the keypad when entering a PIN.
As for Ferraro about his ATM experience, he told NBC, "I couldn't believe it." He advises, "If you have to shake the whole machine to make sure it looks legit, shake it!"