This blog is part of the City's Let's Talk Public Safety Program

Sep 03

ATM Skimming Devices

Posted on September 3, 2021 at 4:30 PM by Deputy Aaron Scheller

Group of people at ATMs

Automated teller machines (ATMs) are convenient and easy to use. They make it possible for us to draw cash from our checking accounts any time we need to using our debit card and Personal Identification Number (PIN). The process to withdraw cash is so simple and it is something we all do regularly that we tend to not pay close attention to the ATMs we use. But it’s important we do, and here’s why. In recent years, there has been a considerable increase of ATM hacking incidents by thieves looking to steal debit card information.

ATMs can be physically modified with minimal effort, often in a manner that makes it very difficult for someone to detect if they did not know what to look for. ATM skimming scams cost consumers and financial institutions an estimated $1 billion dollars each year.

So, how does this scam work? Thieves take a phony look-alike card reader – often purchased on the blank market – and place it on top of the authentic one. When someone inserts their card into the slot, the “reader” will record your card information onto a small computer chip. They also place a camera, or a false key pad, discreetly onto the machine which will record your Personal Identification Number (PIN).  With your account number and PIN, these criminals can now spend your money freely.

In most cases, after several days of stealing debit card information, the thieves will return to the ATM and recover the skimming devices. But that’s not always the case. There are now newer, more sophisticated skimming devices that criminals can access remotely via WiFi which means they never have to return to the ATM, reducing the likelihood they can be caught in the act and apprehended.

Paying with a credit card at home
With the stolen debit card information in hand, the thieves then clone the information onto fake credit cards using a home computer and special software and hardware. They will either use the cards themselves or sell them to other criminals living anywhere in the country. This is why victims of skimming scams often receive a call from their bank asking if they are in a different state making purchases when they have not traveled out of town.

To prevent becoming a victim of this type of scan, it is important to pay close attention to ATMs before using them. Inspect them for something that may be odd or look out of place. Usually the phony card reader and/or keypad will appear raised or bulkier, or it may feel loose if you try moving it. Also, take a look around the screen area, this is usually where pinhole cameras are installed to record individuals entering their PIN. If you do find skimming devices on the ATM, promptly notify the bank or the owner of the location where the ATM is located.

Lady at ATM
And even if the ATM does not appear to have been compromised, always cover the keypad while entering your PIN just in case someone around you is watching or a camera has been installed nearby. It's just good practice.

As always, thank you for subscribing to Safety Speak. Leaflets with safety tips, including one about about how to spot and protect against ATM skimming scams, can be found on the City website. I encourage to download them, read them, and share them with family members and friends.

Also, if you have any public safety-related questions or concerns you want to share with the City or our local sheriff’s station, or if you have suggestions for topics to cover in this blog, be sure to let me know using the Ask a Deputy feature.

Sep 19

Situational Awareness and Situational Assessment

Posted on September 19, 2019 at 5:04 PM by Deputy Aaron Scheller

Mass Shootings

Every crime, from thefts to horrific massive shootings, has red flags-- warning signs that a potentially dangerous situation is developing. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to detect and prevent a planned attack from occurring particularly when the perpetrator is acting alone. However, we stand a better chance of surviving an attack by using situational awareness and situational assessment.

In their simplest form, situational awareness is viewed as "a state of knowledge" and situational assessment as "the processes" used to achieve that knowledge.

Woman Calling In Emergency inside Parking Lot

Let’s take something simple like being in a parking lot. Do we see what is happening around us to avoid being a victim of a theft? We can assess the situation by looking around to see if there is someone who appears to be in the area for the wrong reasons. Is someone peering into car windows or pulling on door handles? Is someone walking too close behind an individual who just accessed the ATM? This is conducting situational assessment and preparing for the possibility of a crime. What do we do with the information? Do we look down, walk the other way and pretend it’s not our problem or do we find a safe spot and immediately dial 9-1-1.
Basketball Game  Inside School Gym

Now consider this scenario: you walk into the high school gymnasium to watch a friendly basketball game between arch rivals. Normally you would go find a seat in the same section as your friends and family members to cheer your team to victory. Do you know what you would do if a situation developed while the game was underway? Did you take a moment before sitting down to look around and identity all the exists and which one you would take if you had to make a quick escape?

As a law enforcement officer, assessing each situation before committing to possible reactions is a normal part of my work routine. For my safety and that of others, I must always be aware of my surroundings and assess threats in advance.

Of course, I don’t shut off this mindset when I’m not in uniform. It’s very much a part of my nature. As a husband and father, I am continually paying attention to our surroundings no matter where I may be spending time with my family. I make it a point to become familiar with our surroundings – both people and objects, to identify exits and potential hiding places, and do never let my guard down so that I can be ready in the event I have to react quickly.That’s not to say I don’t relax. Being aware does not mean being rigid. Being observant does not mean being paranoid.

This topic should not incite feelings of fear or worry. It's meant to be empowering.The takeaway is simple – look at what goes on around you at all time. Continually assess your surroundings so you can detect what belongs and what is out of place. Plan to react – whether it’s hiding, running or fighting. When you beat the fear of the unknown, you stand a better chance of not becoming a victim.

As always, thank you for subscribing to Safety Speak.Leaflets with safety tips, including one about situational awareness, can be found on the City website. I encourage to download them, read them, and share them with family members and friends.

Also, if you have any public safety-related questions or concerns you want to share with the City or our local sheriff’s station, or if you have suggestions for topics to cover in this blog, be sure to let me know using the Ask a Deputy feature.
Sep 19

If You See Something, Say Something ... Report Suspicious Activity

Posted on September 19, 2019 at 5:00 PM by Deputy Aaron Scheller

Since its launch in July 2010, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s signature national campaign “If You See something, Say Something” has been widely embraced and adopted on a local level by communities nationwide.

The campaign’s call to action is simple: if you see something out of the ordinary or if you get a sense that a crime is about to occur in your neighborhood, place of work, or wherever you may be, immediately notify law enforcement

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