The Santa Barbara Police Department says detectives have recently discovered multiple ATM skimmer devices on Bank of America ATMs throughout the city and they believe the people responsible have also been targeting other communities along the California coast.
Just last month, the department reported it had received nearly a dozen reports from Bank of America customers who had their accounts compromised.
Police say they've continued to receive similar reports since then with fraudulent activity occurring as recently as last week.
They say more than $50,000 of fraudulent withdrawals have been confirmed to date.
Investigators believe customers using California Employment Development Department (EDD) debit cards are being specifically targeted.
They say those cards generally do not have an EMV security chip, and Bank of America manages and maintains all EDD accounts.
The criminals responsible reportedly obtain credit card account information embedded on the magnetic strip by "skimming" the strip on the back of the card when the card is inserted into the ATM. At the same time, a hidden camera aimed at the PIN-pad captures the victim entering their security PIN number.
Investigators say the suspects have been retrieving the skimmers within a day or two of installation, then downloading the video and "cloning" the debit card information onto a blank debit card.
According to police, the safest alternative to using an ATM is to speak to a bank teller in person or to transfer the funds into an account protected with an EMV-chipped card. They say to never use an ATM that appears damaged or altered, and they recommend concealing the PIN-pad with your other hand or an object when you enter your personal identification number into any ATM.
In Santa Barbara, anyone who has been a victim of this type of ATM theft can file a report on the Santa Barbara Police Department's website.