June 26, 2014 By Michael Florio
Astoria residents need to be cautious when using their debit or credit cards, the police said.
A skimming device, a mechanism used to steal information from customer ATM cards, was found at the Chase Bank branch at 31-05 30th Ave last week, according to Deputy Inspector Kevin Maloney of the 114th Precinct.
The perpetrators, who the police arrested last week, had placed a hidden device over the card reader (or entry slot) on the front of the ATM and then smuggled in a camera to view people entering their PIN numbers.
Maloney did not say how many people’s information was compromised. However, customers are recommended to check their statements.
Maloney said in the past that these devices would be found in small gas stations or bodegas, but now they are being found in reputable banks throughout Queens. The criminals typically match the information from the card reader with the PIN numbers they get from the camera.
The police got wind of this particular scam when someone tipped them off last week. The police responded and arrested three men who happened to be installing the device when they arrived.
The perpetrators are all from Romania and are in the country on temporary visas. Maloney said that they are investigating them further to see if they are involved in any other skimming cases in Queens.
Maloney said that skimming devices usually only last for a few hours since a camera battery—used to collect the PIN numbers– don’t last very long. Therefore, the devices are typically replaced on a daily basis.
Maloney said to prevent this crime, people should pull on the ATM machine to see if the card reader is lose. If it is lose, they should not use it. Also, individuals should cover up the keypad when entering their pin number.
He said individuals should also consider using a different card to gain access into the bank than the one they use to withdraw money from.