Area of ATM skimmer investigation widens
COVINGTON - The swath of customers possibly affected by hackers recent attempts at "skimming" credit card data from several ATMs has been expanded on Thursday afternoon to include Covington and Slidell, according to an announcement by the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office.
Louisiana State Police confirmed with local, state and federal authorities Monday that they were looking into a major compromise of ATMs along the I-10 corridor from Baton Rouge to New Orleans. With the new information from deputies in St. Tammany Parish, it seems that the skimming scam also worked its way along I-12.
Deputies asked anyone that used ATMs at bank locations in Covington and Slidell on or around Friday, Jan. 23 to check and re-check their bank accounts for fraudulent transactions. The data skimming devices were set up at Whitney and Resource Bank branch ATMs. Similar illegal data collection devices were found at Whitney Bank branches in the Baton Rouge area earlier this week.
According to TPSO deputies, suspects in the spree of crimes are members of a Middle Eastern or Armenian interstate crime ring that operates across the country, installing the "skimmer" devices on their target ATMs of choice as they go. Detectives said the skimmers were placed on Friday morning, but they were removed about 12 hours later the same day.
A typical ATM skimmer, like the ones used by the suspects, is comprised of a molded plastic cover that closely resembles the industrial design of the standard ATM keypad. The false cover is complete with a fake credit card slot, which gathers data contained on the magnetic strip of the unwitting victim's credit card. To top off the equal parts insidious and ingenious setup, ATM skimmers use nearly unrecognizable pinhole cameras, positioned above the ATM's keypad, that allows the crooks to view the customer as they input their all-important PIN.
TPSO Detectives said the suspects were attempting to make withdrawals using card numbers stolen from the area in Celebration, Florida at around noon on Tuesday. Detectives are working with the U.S. Secret Service, local and state law enforcement and representatives from the banking industry to resolve the crime.
It is not known if the Covington/Slidell ATM skimming activity is directly related to similar criminal activity in Baton Rouge earlier this week at this time.
If you used your card at one of the ATMs mentioned in the story around the time the ATM skimmers were in operation, call (985) 809-8207 to file a report.