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String of card skimming thefts wipes out accounts of local bank customers

Card skimmer
Posted at 5:22 PM, Nov 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-21 18:20:56-05

Local mom, Unique Martinez, says she used the ATMs at Santa Maria's Bank of America branch on South Broadway two weeks ago, and within hours, the money in her Electronic Benefits Card was wiped out.

"When I looked on my mobile app, it showed the transactions from where the perpetrators went and took out my money from a bank I didn't even go to," Martinez told KSBY. "There were three different transactions — one for $800, one for $700, and one for $60."

But Martinez was not the only victim. Ang Canseco of Lompoc said that on the same day Martinez had her money stolen while using a Bank of America ATM, Canseco used her debit card at a Bank of America ATM in Lompoc.

She says by November 7, her account was wiped out by an unauthorized transaction from Santa Maria's Bank of America location on South Broadway. Canseco adds that on November 13, she also received notice about another transaction in Utah for $380. She says the funds were restored to her account by Thursday evening.

Meanwhile, Friday afternoon, another Santa Maria Bank of America customer reached out to KSBY saying $800 disappeared from her bank account when she too withdrew money from the ATM on South Broadway on November 7.

Katie Texiera tells KSBY she reached out to the Santa Maria Police Department on November 9. That day, according to her police report, representatives at the bank informed officers they had recovered a card skimmer inside one of their ATMs and that it was placed in their vault for safekeeping.

On Friday, KSBY News reporter Jacob Dizon stopped by the Bank of America on South Broadway to speak with their employees about the incident, but they refused to comment on the situation. They directed us to their corporate media spokesperson and we have not yet heard back.

Martinez, meanwhile, shared about the consequences she has faced as a result of the fraudulent transactions.

"It put me behind on all my bills, on all my rent. I had late fees. I wasn't able to get my daughter the shoes she needed for basketball. I had no gas money. It burdened us a lot," Martinez said.

She says she too filed a police report and that the funds were restored to her account the following week.

Though they are unrelated to this string of incidents at Bank of America, on Friday we heard from the Community Bank of Santa Maria for tips on how you can identify and avoid having your card skimmed and duplicated when using ATMs.

They say you should be on the lookout for tape, residue, or anything sticking out of the ATMs and that it is a good idea to wiggle the card slot or keypad for loose-fitting attachments.

We also reached out to both Santa Maria and Lompoc police departments but they were unavailable for comment.

Editor's note: This article was edited to change Unique Martinez's last name from her maiden name, Castillo.