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More than two dozen people report compromised information from ATM skimmers in Santa Barbara

ATM Anniversary
Posted at 11:01 AM, Sep 30, 2021

More than two dozen people reported compromised information from ATM skimmers in Santa Barbara, prompting a warning from law enforcement - remain vigilant when visiting the ATM.

Scammers are going up and down the coast of California using non-detectable skimming devices to obtain banking information.

These devices are easy to install in ATMs and Bank of America ATMs in the Santa Barbara area have been heavily targeted.

"There's been over two dozen reported cases of these skimming devices being installed," said Santa Barbara City Police Department Public Information Officer, Sergeant Ethan Ragsdale.

The skimming devices are small and usually are hidden in the card reader with a hidden camera that records the user typing in the pin number.

Scammers can then clone the debit card and withdraw as much money as the ATM will allow from any of the user's accounts.

Bank of America doesn’t have any counter-skimming devices in the ATMs targeted in Santa Barbara. Bank of America is also the primary manager for all Employment Development Department accounts, making them a prime target.

"Those California Employment Department Development cards do not have that security chip," said Ragsdale.

Sergeant Ragsdale says they are primarily seeing cards without the embedded gold chip being affected because the skimming devices collect the account number from the magnetic strip on the back of the card.

Eric Vitale has been investigating skimming operations since 2010 and says the operations are generally conducted by organized crime groups who are not from this area. They usually travel through a city, often just staying for the weekend while they collect banking information, and then move on.

"Generally they will do it on a Thursday night or a Friday night for the weekend. That's when they usually see the most activity," said San Luis Obispo Senior Investigator, Eric Vitale.

Law enforcement officials say the best way to keep your information safe at an ATM is to check the keypad and the card reader to make sure skimming devices haven't been attached.

"If it's raised up about a quarter of an inch, try pulling it off. If it comes off, it's a skimmer," said Vitale.

He says the safest way to transfer funds is through e-commerce using apps like Apple Pay or Venmo.