The Santa Barbara Police Department is reminding the community to remain vigilant when using automated teller machines (ATM) for account transactions. As released last month, there were nearly a dozen reports from Bank of America customers who have had their accounts compromised and have had unauthorized withdrawals occur. Detectives have recently discovered several more ATM “skimmer devices” on Bank of America ATMs throughout the city of Santa Barbara. It also appears these suspects have been targeting numerous communities up and down the coast of California.

Santa Barbara police detectives have continued to receive reports, with fraudulent activity occurring as recently as last week. Over $50,000 of fraudulent withdrawals have been confirmed to this date. The true loss amount is likely to be much larger, considering unreported cases and transactions at other Bank of America locations within the county.

It is believed these suspects purposefully target those customers using California Employment Development Department (EDD) debit cards. These cards generally do not have a EMV security chip. Bank of America manages and maintains accounts for all who use EDD.

The suspects obtain credit card account information embedded on the magnetic strip by “skimming” the strip on the back of the card when the card is inserted into the ATM. Simultaneously, a hidden camera aimed at the PIN-pad captures the victim entering their security PIN number. The suspects have been retrieving the skimmers within a day or two of installation, then downloading the video and “cloning” the debit card information onto a “blank” debit card. These devices are barely noticeable when using the ATM and are covertly concealed. 

The safest alternative is to speak to a bank teller in person or to transfer the funds into an account protected with an EMV-chipped card. Never use an ATM that appears damaged or altered. It is recommended to conceal the PIN-pad with your other hand or an object when you enter your personal identification number into any ATM.

Potential victims of these types of ATM thefts, should file a report online at santabarbaraca.gov/gov/depts/police/. Questions may be directed to Detective K. Rapp at 805-897-2331 or KRapp@sbpd.com.

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