In July 2011, a customer at a Chase Bank branch in West Hills, Calif. noticed something odd about the ATM he was using and reported it to police. Authorities who responded to the incident discovered a sophisticated, professional-grade ATM skimmer that they believe was made with the help of a 3D printer.
An ATM skimmer gang stole more than $400,000 using skimming devices built with the help of high-tech 3D printers, federal prosecutors say.
Before I get to the gang, let me explain briefly how ATM skimmers work, and why 3D printing is a noteworthy development in this type of fraud.
Michaels Stores said this month that it had replaced more than 7,200 credit card terminals from store registers nationwide, after discovering that thieves had somehow modified or replaced the machines to include point of sale (POS) technology capable of siphoning customer payment card data and PINs. The specific device used by the criminal intruders has not been made public. But many devices and services are sold on the criminal underground to facilitate the surprisingly common fraud.
Most of the ATM skimmers I’ve profiled in this blog were parts designed to mimic and to fit on top of existing cash machine components, such as card acceptance slots or PIN pads. But sometimes, skimmer thieves find success in modifying or wholesale swapping out ATM parts with compromised look-alikes.
On February 8, 2009, a customer at an ATM at a Bank of America branch in Sun Valley, Calif., spotted something that didn’t look quite right about the machine: A silver, plexiglass device had been attached to the ATM’s card acceptance slot, in a bid to steal card data from unsuspecting ATM users.
But the customer and the bank’s employees initially overlooked a secondary fraud device that the unknown thief had left at the scene: A sophisticated, battery operated and motion activated camera designed to record victims entering their personal identification numbers at the ATM.
Media attention to crimes involving ATM skimmers may make consumers more likely to identify compromised cash machines, which involve cleverly disguised theft devices that sometimes appear off-color or out-of-place. Yet, many of today’s skimmer scams can swipe your card details and personal identification number while leaving the ATM itself completely untouched, making them far more difficult to spot.
The most common of these off-ATM skimmers can be found near cash machines that are located in the antechamber of a bank or building lobby, where access is controlled by a key card lock that is activated when the customer swipes his or her ATM card. In these scams, the thieves remove the card swipe device attached to the outside door, add a skimmer, and then reattach the device to the door. The attackers then place a hidden camera just above or beside the ATM, so that the camera is angled to record unsuspecting customers entering their PINs.