LAKE CITY, Fla. – An alert bank customer helped police make an unsettling discovery this weekend at a First Federal Bank of Florida ATM in Lake City.
A skimmer device had been installed on the ATM, along with a hidden camera set up to capture users' PIN entries, police said.
According to the Lake City Police Department, a customer, who said he had seen warnings from police about skimmer devices, pulled on the plastic housing of the card reader slot to check it and thought it felt “odd.”
Investigator Garret Register came to the bank at 707 SW Main Blvd. and inspected the ATM.
He found the plastic card slot housing was loose, and he was able to remove it, finding it had been glued over the actual housing of the ATM. The housing was fabricated in advance to look identical to the actual ATM’s plastic component, police said.
A hidden camera was also found attached to the front of the ATM in a position to capture PIN entries. The camera was inside in a fabricated piece of plastic that fit perfectly into a flat area above the PIN pad, police said.
“Skimmers” on ATMs are magnetic card readers, which are placed in a way that they read the data of any card placed into the ATM’s card slot. The “skimmer” gives criminals a user's account number. The camera hidden above the PIN pad captures the PIN entry, and the two pieces of data together give criminals easy access to the funds in a user’s account, police said.
Newer “skimmer” devices are often created specifically to mimic the actual components of the ATM. These skimmers, regardless of their exact design, normally fit over top of the actual reader slot, police said.
“The technology behind these skimmers is improving,” Chief Argatha Gilmore said. “ATM users must remain vigilant. They are designed to be temporary, so no matter how real they look, they will often feel wrong if you check them closely. Carefully inspect the ATM before using it, and trust your gut.”
ATM users should always remain alert, police said. They suggested pulling or wiggling the ATM card slot housing to see if it feels loose or comes free and closely inspecting the area around the PIN pad for any pieces that seem out of place or stick out from the ATM.
“If you are unsure, call us, and we will help you check it out before use,” Gilmore said.
Police are working with the ATM's owner to figure out if any accounts were compromised. The Criminal Investigation Division conducted a sweep of all other ATMs in Lake City over the weekend and found no more skimmers, police said.
Anyone with information about the skimmer is asked to contact Register at 386-758-5451.