How safe is it for you to use ATMs?

November 17, 2010 3:15:44 AM PST
As police work to find out who was trying to steal people's credit card information through a skimming device at an ATM, we're learning more about just how often this happens around Houston. It's a warning for anyone who uses an ATM. The device was discovered over the weekend at the Chase Bank on Washington and Studemont.

Eyewitness News viewers wanted to know more about the skimmers. Houston police say using them illegally has grown leaps and bounds, and you should be vigilant.

With so much activity on Washington Avenue even on a Tuesday night, it's easy to see why a little device attached to a Chase Bank's ATM would've been overlooked on Saturday night.

"I'd be lying if I thought about it all the time," ATM user Joseph Li said.

There's no telling how long a skimming device had been there before a viewer found it and turned it to police, who say its purpose is only bad news.

"Unbeknownst to you, it's actually someone else's device that's capturing your numbers," HPD financial crimes officer Bruce Owdley said.

Owdley showed us credit card skimmers they've found in the past attached to cash machines.

"A crook has this device, and with the swipe of your credit card through here, it would display your credit card number," Owdley said.

It's a growing crime trend with identity theft. All that's need is a card reader, plus a camera for the damage to be great.

"The sky's the limit, just the same as what you can do with your credit card or debit card, they can do exactly same because now they have your information," Owdley said.

Chase Bank says it'll work with customers if any unauthorized transactions were made on their accounts. The viewer who discovered the skimmer machine on Washington likely prevented more headaches.

Jo King said she'll be more careful the next time she uses an ATM.

"It's inconvenient to have your money out," she said. "I need my money there when I need it."

Police say you can protect yourself by examining the ATM machine closely for anything extra on the exterior or if something just doesn't seem to be right. Also, wait staff and store clerks have known to use these devices criminally, so police suggest you never let your card out of your sight.


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