Identity thieves target North Fresno bank

June 13, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Dozens of people could have lost all the money in their bank accounts in a technologically-advanced case of identity theft uncovered by Action News. For three days, the crooks targeted customers of a bank in the River Park area.

The act requires little thought. Using your ATM or credit card is a modern convenience, but one that makes us all potential targets for identity thieves.

"What we have is a skimming device," said Fresno police detective Doug Reese as he showed Action News the tools of the trade for crooks.

On the right is a skimmer. The technology inside it lets thieves swipe your numbers when you swipe your card. On the left is a tiny camera. It lets the thieves watch you punch in your pin.

"They're well made," Reese said. "They fit in place tightly so it is hard to see."

Surveillance photos captured two men placing these devices on the door and the ATM at a North Fresno bank branch.

Over three days in March, the suspects gathered the numbers to clone cards and withdraw money from about 50 accounts.

Three months later, a judge sentenced Ashot Khachatryan and Arman Sargysyan to jail for the crimes. Detectives caught up with these two quickly, but they say skimming is becoming more common.

"And not all devices look like this," Reese said. "They're constantly changing them to adapt to whatever equipment they're putting them on, which could be banks, could be stores, could be just about anywhere that has electronic devices."

The challenge for all of us then is to know what to look for. Detective Reese says you might see a second slider device when you're about to use a skimmer. And the little cameras usually have a little bump where the technology is hiding under the plastic. But some devices are even harder to spot.

There's one really easy way to prevent most skimming ID theft. When you go to the ATM, and you punch in your PIN number, just cover your finger with your other hand.

Bank surveillance footage is helping police catch a lot of suspects, but even in this recent case, detectives are still looking for a third man involved in the scheme.

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