BURBANK (CBSLA.com) — Two men are behind bars Thursday accused of using a skimmer at at least two banks — one in Burbank, the other in Torrance — that was able to steal ATM information from customers and ripoff U.S. Bank and its customers for a half million dollars.
In addition to the skimmer, CBS2’s Erica Nochlin reports the suspects also used a tiny pinhole camera to steal information from customers who used the ATM at a U.S. Bank located in the 1700 block of W. Olive Avenue.
Police identified the men as 54-year-old Alexsandru Barbu of Studio City and 42-year-old Ferenc Szekely of Las Vegas.
The suspects are accused of hitting the Burbank branch at least three times.
Nochlin said the men are accused of a similar scam in a Torrance bank. When police got wind of the scam there, they set up a sting and caught both suspects.
These types of crimes and identity thefts are not new, but they are on the rise. ATM compromises, reports Nochlin, rose about 546 percent from 2014 to 2015. Gas stations and convenience stores are also hotbeds for skimmers.
The tiny, hard-to-detect skimmer — about 1/16th of an inch thick — fits in the card slot where you put your ATM card and steals the data.
New ATM cards with chips are becoming more popular because it’s harder to compromise the chip by scanning, as opposed to the magnetic strip.
Nochlin spoke Thursday evening to unsuspecting customers.
“My goodness,” said Mikka Wade, “I had no idea that was happening. That’s pretty scary.”
The skimmer and pinhole camera are rather sophisticated.
“Virtually undetectable to the user at the ATM. This is a little more sophisticated than we normally see,” says Burbank Police Sgt. Claudio Losacco. “They were a little more successful.”
Barbu and Szekely have been booked at the Burbank Jail. They are accused of several counts of ID theft and commercial burglary.
Investigators told Nochlin they believe the men are possibly linked to more such skimmer cases around the county, state and maybe even the country.
Chip or strip, Nochlin says experts say to check the ATM you use for loose or broken parts, cover your hand over the keyboard as you type in the PIN and keep a close eye on your bank account.