Authorities in Illinois are urging consumers to use extra care at ATMs after three men were indicted for allegedly compromising cash machines in the Chicago area and across the Midwest.
The defendants are accused to rigging ATMs with "skimming" devices to capture bank card numbers and PINs. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan says more than 1,000 consumers had their bank information stolen in the scheme.
Using the stolen information, the defendants allegedly created counterfeit ATM cards to withdraw money from victims' accounts, giving them access to millions of dollars in bank accounts belonging to victims in Cook and DuPage counties, parts of Wisconsin and across the Midwest.
"These "skimming' operations are a growing threat to consumers, most of whom are unaware they've been victimized in such a scheme," Madigan said. "These cases should serve as an alarm bell to everyone to pay close attention to their financial statements and to immediately flag unauthorized transactions with their bank."
Madigan said the majority of ATM machines compromised in the skimming schemes belonged to Fifth Third and Chase Banks, which assisted in the investigations and are notifying potential victims.
Gas pump vulnerability
Skimming devices are not only used on ATMs, but also gasoline pumps. One way to guard against having your identity stolen at the pump is to always select "credit" when using your debit card to make the purchase. When you select "credit," you are not required to enter your PIN. Unless the thieves capture your PIN, it's doubtful they will be able to access your bank account.
Madigan said identity theft continues to be a growing threat to consumers. Last year, more than 3,200 identity theft complaints were filed with her office's Consumer Fraud Bureau.
Consumers reported incidents of fraudulent charges on their existing accounts, thieves opening new accounts in their names, including credit card, utility and cell phone accounts, and instances of bank fraud, such as stolen checks or fraudulent withdrawals made to a victim's bank account.
Consumers should closely monitor their bank statements and report any unauthorized charges to their financial institution.