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Secret Service investigating 27 skimming cases at Macedonia ATM

PNC Bank assisting law enforcement after thousands of dollars are stolen
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Posted at 5:18 PM, Mar 15, 2023

MACEDONIA, Ohio — The FBI estimates skimming costs consumers, banks and credit card companies more than $1 billon each year.

Federal agents say it involves placing small, illegal devices on point-of sale-terminals (POS), gas pumps or ATMs which collect critical card information. Criminals use the data to create fake debit or credit cards and then steal from victims' accounts.

In Macedonia, more than two dozen people were taken for thousands of dollars after a skimmer was placed on a PNC branch ATM on East Aurora Road. Macedonia police received 22 police reports. Five more reports were filed with Twinsburg police.

One of the victims, Will Shuster, 62, of Northfield Center told News 5 he has only used his bank card for ATM withdrawals and deposits over the past 23 years.

Shuster said he has never experienced a problem, but that changed a little more than one month ago.

On Jan. 20, he made a deposit at the drive-up ATM. About two weeks later, an odd transaction appeared on his account.

"There was an ATM withdrawal and associated ATM fees— which I've never paid an ATM fee in my life— for $483.75," Shuster said.

Shuster said the fraudulent transaction happened at a bank inside a grocery store more than 200 miles away from Macedonia in Lebanon, Ohio. The retiree started to put the pieces together that he was a skimming victim.

When asked what words he would use to describe the thieves, Shuster replied, "Reprehensible. Clever. Nefarious."

Shuster filed an online dispute and went to the bank the next day to follow up.

"They assured me that it was impossible the card got skimmed there because they check their ATMs twice each day for skimmers," he said.

However, Macedonia Detective Dan Matejka said a skimmer was found on the ATM and he believes it may have been on the machine for about a week in late January.

"Just people noticing that several hundred dollars— to the highest one was maybe around $1,200— money was withdrawn from their account," Matejka said. "They didn't have any sort of knowledge of this."

Skimmers, which can be very hard to spot, sometimes include tiny cameras which can enable the crooks to see personal identification numbers. Matejka said there was a camera in the Macedonia case.

"I felt violated. We trust our banks to keep our money safe," Shuster said.

Blaine Forschen, a U.S Secret Service agent, would not comment specifically on the Macedonia investigation, but said the agency is "making headway on all of our cases."

"We look at cameras. We look at data. We match fingerprints if we can get it," Forschen said.

Forschen said two task forces in the area investigate financial fraud, including skimming, and that type of theft is a constant problem.

"They (consumers) could be a victim of skimming and not realize it so they should constantly check their accounts," he added.

Shuster said PNC restored his money within 10 days. Still, he's closely monitoring his account and thinks others should do the same.

"Just be careful. Take measure to protect yourself. Protect your account. Don't assume that your bank can always protect you."

FBI agents advise inspecting ATMs, POS terminals and other card readers before using. Look for anything loose, crooked, damaged or scratched. Don't use any card reader if you notice anything unusual.

Anther tip from agents is to pull at the edges of the keypad before entering your PIN. Then, cover the keypad when you enter your PIN to prevent cameras from recording your entry.

PNC released this statement:

The security of our customers’ accounts is our top priority.

We are working with law enforcement to investigate a potential fraud issue affecting certain PNC ATMs.

In general, customers who notice suspicious activity on their accounts should contact us right away using the number listed on the back of their PNC ATM card or on our website at www.pnc.com [pnc.com].
Craig Friedman

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