Dozens of people have been ripped off through an ATM scam in town, and Tracy Police could get FBI help with their investigation. On Wednesday Tracy police fielded 24 calls from victims as of 4 p.m. Police heard from 14 victims on Tuesday and 12 on Monday, but before that there were only a few each day. While many people, including 20 or so from the Grant Line Road Costco store, suspect their accounts were compromised at the Costco gas station the scam could reach further.
“What’s so bizarre was I didn’t use my debit card since I was up with my aunt and uncle for New Year’s Eve,” said Janet Sayers of Tracy.
She said her bank called her on Sunday to report a $500 withdrawal from an ATM in Pleasanton and then froze her account when she confirmed that it was a fraudulent transaction.
“I was home all day,” she said, and while she uses the Costco gas station she said she hadn’t been back since just prior to the New Year’s holiday. She said she has also used her ATM at a store where a clerk passes the card through a reader behind the counter, but she won’t do that anymore.
Another woman said she used her ATM at the Costco pharmacy and lost $1,000 shortly afterward when someone made withdrawals from ATMs in Milpitas and Palo Alto.
Management at Costco would not comment on the matter.
Banks are familiar with ATM and credit card scams. Yannick Green of Mountain House said he learned how widespread this week’s problem is when he went to his bank to cancel his ATM cards.
“When I went into the bank to stop everything they said they weren’t surprised,” Greensaid. “I wasn’t the first one in there to report theft.”
Like many of the folks who called the police on Tuesday, Green had used an ATM at Costco on Grant Line Road. He said the machine wouldn’t accept his card on Friday, so he used a cash voucher to buy gas. Afterward he thought that something was amiss, and over the weekend his wife spotted $500 worth of charges from ATMs in Sunnyvale and Mountain View on their account.
Tracy Police still haven’t reported where or how thieves gained access to debit card data in town.
City spokesman Matt Robinson said Wednesday that the detective on the case is now working with the FBI. An FBI spokesman in Sacramento said he was unaware of an investigation. The FBI spokesman from the San Francisco office said agents would not comment on whether or not there is an active investigation.
Scott Gillingham, resident agent in charge for the U.S. Secret Service office in Sacramento, said he is unfamiliar with this case, but the agency regularly investigates electronic fraud like this.
Gillingham said thieves often attach electronic devices on the front of an ATM. A person using an unfamiliar ATM may not recognize the device, which will read a card’s magnetic strip and record or transmit the information. That allows a thief to make a counterfeit card. Thieves will use a hidden camera on or near the ATM to record a user’s entry on the PIN keypad.
“It’s not very common in this area, and people are able to tell that the machine has been modified,” he said, though the devices also have become more sophisticated.
The California Bankers Association issued an alert about this type of scam in July 2005. The association warned people to be aware of any changes to the ATMs that they regularly use, and also to shield the keypad when they enter their pass codes.