ATMs on Staten Island rigged for identity theft; bandits steal $500G


(ALISON GENDAR)   A band of brazen thieves ripped off hundreds of New Yorkers by rigging ATMs to steal account and password information from bank customers.

They used the pilfered info to swipe half a million dollars from their victims’ bank accounts – the latest twist in increasingly aggressive identity-theft scams, police said.

“This crew is sophisticated,” saidDeputy Inspector Gregory Antonsen, head of theNYPD‘s special investigations division. “And they are coming up with new ways to steal your identity every day.”

The scam is part of a chronic assault on people’s identity.

From pickpockets hoping to hit pay dirt with a stolen purse to service workers in hotels, hospitals and restaurants selling confidential information, personal data is a hot commodity and under constant threat.

The NYPD is hunting the rigged-ATM crew after the havoc they created stealing fromSovereign Bankcustomers.

They sauntered intoStaten Islandbranches on Henderson Ave. and Amboy Road and installed devices on the bank’s ATM machines, police said.

The first – a skimmer – went over the slot where customers insert their ATM cards. The skimmer reads, and stores, the personal information kept in the magnetic strip on the back of the bank card.

The second gizmo was a tiny camera hidden in the lighted signs over the ATM.

The pinhole camera lens pointed directly onto the ATM keypad and filmed victims typing in their supposedly secret PIN codes.

The crew stole more than $500,000 from more than 250 victims – money the bank is now reimbursing.

“They would download the information collected by the skimmer and synchronize it with the video, and they would have your bank accounts and your PIN number, and [start] grabbing all they can,” Antonsen said.

The thieves would then create their own phony ATM cards and use their victim’s PIN to dip into accounts, often going to other banks, likeCitibank, to make the withdrawals.

Robert Schwartzsaid he was checking his accounts online last month when he noticed two suspicious withdrawals – one for $600, plus a $3 ATM charge, and a second, a few minutes later, for $403.

“They took out the maximum for the day. I was just lucky I noticed it before they hit me for another $1,000,” said Schwartz, 44, a UPS driver.

Schwartz called the the bank, which put an immediate hold on his account, thwarting a third attempted withdrawal. The bank refunded his loss.

Pictures of three crew members were captured by the banks’ surveillance cameras as the thieves installed the devices or withdrew money, saidLt. Ruperto Aguilar, head of the NYPD’s identity theft squad.

Skimmers, now illegal, have turned up on bank ATM machines and gas pumps and in the pockets of crooked waiters at high-end restaurants, police said.

“I always keep my eyes open, but they still got through to my account,” Schwartz said. “I don’t know how the hell they did it, but they did.”
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