'Muggings' Via Technology

ATM. 020415, GD AP

When Robert Green made a quick stop at his neighborhood ATM to grab some cash, he never imagined just how much it would cost him.

"All the money was gone -- approximately $2,500," Green told CBS News Correspondent Byron Pitts. "They started to take money out of the account about an hour after my using the machine."

With frightening speed, Green's money was stolen, and he became a statistic -- part of a growing collection falling prey to a fast-spreading, state-of-the-art scam called "ATM Skimming."

Thieves camouflage credit card readers -- which are widely available on the Internet -- and attach them to an ATM. While that records your card information, hidden cameras or fake keypads capture your PIN number. After you leave, unaware you've been had, the account data is burned onto blank cards, the PINs are retrieved and it's off to the races to get your money.

Hackensack Police Chief Charles Zisa described the thefts as high-tech mugging.

"Clearly it's a growing problem," Zisa said. "After we had our incidents, we sent out an alert along the East Coast and got responses from as far away as Florida."

The scam first popped up overseas, but now it has taken firm hold in the United States. A ring operating near Chicago recently hooked up hardware and helped themselves to more than $250,000.

Around Boston, skimmers went as far as planting a sign -- "ATM Screen Options Have Changed" -- to calm suspicious ATM users, then conned them out of about $50,000.

Estimates of the total skimmed every year from the roughly 365,000 ATMs in America run well past $10 million.

And if that wasn't enough, for the unlucky victims losing their money is just the start of the headaches.

"The victims we talk to -- they have a lot of fear where they feel that more of their personal information is in the hands of the criminals. It is very devastating to them," said Diane Terry of the Transunion Fraud Victims' Assistance Department.

The best defense? Awareness.

Said Secret Service Special Agent Thomas Kasza: " I would tell people -- trust your suspicions. If you're looking at something and thinking it's not right, you probably have a good reason for that thought."

And good reason to be careful, in this age of high-tech hoodlums looking to get their hands on your hard-earned money.
  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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