Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Card scanner discovered at Tampa ATM

TAMPA — Card in, card out, punch some buttons and ca-ching! It's usually a simple routine with automated teller machines, but what if someone, or something, is watching?

When Tampa police Cpl. Mark Altimari recently slid his debit card in the slot of the Bank of America ATM at 1720 E Fowler Ave., he knew something was wrong.

His card was stuck and the scanner was loose. A quick call to the bank manager confirmed his suspicions — he'd fallen prey to an increasingly common scam.

Police say thieves glue their own card readers over ATM readers to capture bank card numbers and place tiny cameras near PIN keypads. The devices record the information, which is downloaded when the fake scanners and cameras are retrieved later. Then comes pay day.

The fake scanners or keypads don't prevent ATM users from withdrawing money, so the scam can go undetected until a depleted balance rears its head.

Because Altimari removed the scanner and camera from the Bank of America ATM he used, police don't believe whoever put the devices there was able to steal anyone's money. Altimari changed his account and got a new card anyway. He hasn't used an ATM since.

"It just goes to show you, anyone can be a victim," said Altimari, who was on duty and in uniform when he was scammed. "At this point, we've just got to make sure there are no more victims."

His was the first of several card-scanner cons this month in the Tampa Bay area. A teller at the Pilot Bank at 4005 S Dale Mabry Highway discovered a fake scanner and personal identification number keypad at an ATM on Friday. Police said no Tampa residents have reported missing money.

It was a different story in Clearwater, where at least 20 Wachovia customers reported missing money during two days last week. An investigation of the ATMs at the branch, 2699 Gulf-to-Bay Blvd., found evidence of an adhesive on a drive-through ATM, Clearwater police said.

The bank is still reviewing surveillance videos and has not released any information on victims.

Kathy Harrison, a spokeswoman for Wachovia's Florida branches, said the bank inspects its ATMs regularly. She said the bank has a zero-liability policy, which means anyone who has money stolen can get it all back.

Representatives from the Tampa banks would not comment.

Tampa police Sgt. Becky Bodamer said it appears numerous groups are responsible. During a Monday news conference, she said the culprits could be local or international criminals, citing the recent discovery of possible Romanian links to the activity.

The best way to avoid the scam is to inspect ATMs carefully before using them, police said. Jiggle the card reader and look closely for loose parts.

Cover the keypad as you type in your pin, and don't accept help from anyone standing nearby. Using ATMs inside banks or withdrawing money at a grocery store is generally safe, Bodamer said.

Bodamer said it's up to banks to monitor their ATMs. If every bank visually inspected its machines each day, tampering would be much more difficult, she said.

Card scanner discovered at Tampa ATM 09/15/08 [Last modified: Sunday, September 21, 2008 6:40pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. UF denies white supremacist Richard Spencer's request to speak on campus


    Citing serious safety concerns, the University of Florida has denied Richard Spencer's application to speak on campus next month.

  2. MoviePass now offers unlimited movie watching in theaters for $10 a month, here's what you need to know


    There's now a service that says it will let you watch as many movies as you want for one monthly price: MoviePass. 

    MoviePass will let customers see up to one movie, every day, for $10 a month.
  3. Former Florida prison guards in KKK convicted of plotting to kill a black inmate


    Two former prison guards in Florida who were members of the Ku Klux Klan have been convicted of plotting to kill a black inmate in retaliation for a scuffle with another guard who also belonged to the hate group.

    A jury in Columbia County found David Elliot Moran, left, and Charles Thomas Newcomb guilty of conspiracy to commit first degree murder after they were caught discussing their plans to kill a black inmate in retaliation for a scuffle with another guard who, like them, belonged to the Ku Klux Klan. [Alachua County Jail via AP (2015)]
  4. Jameis Winston's subtle but strong moment of leadership displayed on 'Hard Knocks'


    Quarterback Jameis Winston went to each teammate in the locker room prior to the Bucs' preseason opener Friday at Cincinnati with one message: 'I got your back.'

    Then he proved it.

    Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston throws during the first half of the team's preseason NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Friday in Cincinnati. [AP photo]
  5. Daniel Ruth: Duck & Cover? Fix a drink, instead, if a nuclear bomb ever threatens


    I am a child of the "Duck & Cover" generation.

    Threats of thermonuclear attack bring to mind the safety advice that school children received during the Cold War, driven in part by an arms race that included the first test of a hydrogen bomb. "Ivy Mike," pictured here, was  set off in 1952 on the Enewetak atoll in the Pacific Ocean. [Los Alamos National Laboratory via The New York Times]