Beware when you use an ATM

HOUSTON They are coming in all shapes and sizes and Houston police say they are appearing across the city, so it's important to know what they look like so you can protect yourself.

When you go to an ATM you know the basics.

"Be very cautious when you approach an ATM and look around you," warned ATM user James Sanchez.

But now police say in addition to checking over your shoulder, you should give the machine a once over for a skimmer. Houston police found an ATM earlier this year with a box on the upper right hand corner that actually contained a camera pointed at the number pad, recording users' personal ID numbers. The slot for an ATM card had a skimmer placed on the real card slot to record banking information. Lately Houston has seen an explosion in skimmers added to ATMs.

"It is a becoming more of a problem," said HPD Lt. Robert Manzo. "We are recovering about one or two skimmers a month that are attached to bank ATMs here in the Houston area."

Police say the skimmers have been found on ATMs at big banks and small ones. Sometimes police find those placing the devices on ATMs, but typically it's just the skimmer that's found. One reason is that skimmers are usually placed on an ATM after hours.

Lt. Manzo explained, "Late in the evening on weekends, for example. Saturday is common after the bank has closed for the weekend. They will leave them in place until Sunday sometime, Sunday late at night."

Investigators say it only takes minutes for the crooks to download the stolen information and then upload that to gift cards.

"In a very short period of time they can drain every dollar a person has in their account, very quickly," Lt. Manzo said.

Police have found a pair of skimmers on Houston ATMs in just the last week, so it is a growing problem and one you need to know about before using any ATM.

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