Police uncover ATM 'skimming' scheme

Wednesday, October 28, 2009 at 6:31pm

Metro Nashville Police took to the podium Wednesday to alert people about a string of brazen ATM crimes that may have compromised their bank accounts.

According to officials, a team of credit or bank card skimmers descended on Nashville and likely have stolen thousands of dollars from unsuspecting people — many of whom have not realized yet they've been victimized.

“In the past week we've had at least 39 reports come into the police department of people's debit cards having been compromised somehow at an ATM and used to withdraw money from checking accounts,” Metro Police Lt. Mickey Garner said.

The criminals used a method of placing skimming devices on the front of walk-up ATMs across the city, police said. The devices apparently record card information allowing the suspects later to clone the data onto blank cards for re-use and ring up charges, Garner explained.

The crew also used sophisticated hidden cameras to record PIN numbers, police said.

The extent of the crime has not been established because many victims will not realize they have been improperly charged until their statements arrive, Garner said. Police have already confirmed $22,000 worth of charges made with stolen information, but that number is expected to rise, Garner said.

The suspects did not target a specific bank or branch. Metro Police did identify the Bank of America near the intersection of Harding Road and Woodmont and the Bank of America near 17th Avenue and Church Street as being among the sites police identified as having been outfitted with skimmers.

Suspects have been identified by Metro Police as three white male Europeans. Over the weekend the suspects shopped in the Polo section of the Green Hills Mall's Dillard's department store and tried to buy $700 worth of clothing.

According to police, the men attempted to use five different credit cards for the purchase, but none worked. When asked where they were from, the men answered "Romania." Images of the suspects were caught on camera.

Garner said skimming crews have been going from city to city in the Southeast for awhile. Locations in Georgia have been targeted as well, he said. A crew hailing from Bulgaria is currently incarcerated in

Metro Police urge individuals to check their bank statements for strange charges and to be careful about what ATM devices they use. Consumers have 60 days to dispute a charge once they suspect their information has been compromise, authorities said.