ATM Skimmers Rob U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan--Probably Wish They Hadn't

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ATM skimmers are equal-opportunity crooks. The small devices they supposedly place inside ATM machines in order to steal credit-card info does not discriminate on whose information is taken.

But perhaps some discrimination is in order for their future criminal enterprises--particularly against federal prosecutors.

A pair of men have been arrested and charged with stealing money from bank accounts after allegedly ripping off hundreds of people in the Seattle area. The arrests came after a different group allegedly skimmed money from Durkan's personal account.

The Seattle Times reports:

U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan said Monday that the recent theft of a "substantial amount" of money from her personal bank account should, as much as anything, alert consumers to the potential that even the most mundane of bank transactions -- ATM withdrawals -- pose a risk of being ripped off.The crime involves placement of tiny electronic "skimming" devices on ATMs to steal credit- or debit-card information from customers. Such devices -- some the size of a postage stamp and capable of holding information from thousands of cards -- usually are coupled with hidden "pinhole" cameras focused on ATM keypads to record personal-identification numbers (PINs).

Durkan says that the two alleged skimmers--Ismail Sali and Eugen Tirca--are from Romania and have ties to other Romanians who do the same thing. The prosecutor says that skimming is a $1 billion-a-year enterprise and that, with recent arrests, investigators have dismantled a "nerve center" for organizing the crimes.

The crimes are investigated by the U.S. Secret Service, whose principal mission for most agents is not protecting the president, but tracking counterfeit money and fraud.

The skimming operation is done by putting tiny electronic devices into ATMs that record the card info along with tiny cameras above the key pad that record the PIN numbers as they're entered. After the information is gathered, the crooks make duplicate cards that they then use to suck the accounts dry.

Durkan says she lost about $1,000 to the skimmers.

No doubt the skimmers would be glad to give that one back.

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