The scope of the banking scam that has affected customers in central Arkansas was revealed to be much larger at a press conference held Friday at the Conway Police Department.
Police won’t say the fraudulent charges more than 50 have reported to the department are a result of a skimming scam, but detective Brian Williams said the use of victims’ personal identification numbers points to the method.
In a typical skimming scam, Williams explained, a person’s information is recorded digitally by a “skimmer” placed in a self-use machine such as an ATM or gas pump. He said a camera records the customer as he or she enters a pin number while the reader saves other information in a text file.
The device is designed to go unnoticed, but Williams said to look for the card reader to appear newer or slightly different than the rest of the machine.
The device is later removed from the machine and the information sold online, he said.
“People who deploy these devices leave them in place for a time and then come back. Then it takes a while for the numbers to come to market,” said Williams. “Information could have been captured three or six months ago, and there’s no way of telling where the information was taken.”
Williams said the department has no information or leads that point to where the information was stolen.
Victims are from around central Arkansas, but are primarily Faulkner County and Conway residents, he said.
Williams called the scam a “nationwide problem,” and a “widespread epidemic across the country.”
“We hear they’re also in Texas. These criminals conducting these crimes are intelligent and organized. They know how to get around security procedures and protocols. I’m confident that if our department doesn’t make an arrest, someone will. Financial crimes leave a paper trail,” he said.
Actual charges are occurring out of state in California and Oklahoma. Most reports since the beginning of September have named Oklahoma City and Los Angeles as the cities where withdrawals are taking place.
Some victims are reporting between $400 and $3,000 losses. No particular bank seems to have been targeted.
Williams said investigators do not have a running total for the amount of money that has been stolen, and wouldn’t release that information “because it’s an ongoing investigation.”
Williams said he anticipates “a lot more” bank customers will come forward with fraudulent charges.
Financial institutions and the Secret Service are also investigating, according to Williams.
Brian Marr, Social Security agent in charge for Arkansas, said his agency, which has financial roots, is working with CPD and local banks.
Marr said investigations are ongoing, and he expects to identify the location the information was stolen.
“It is our thought that this is a skimming investigation,” he said.
About $10,000 more was reported stolen in incident reports filed Thursday.
(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)