Identity thieves using portable credit card skimmers

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by KYLE MOORE / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on February 4, 2010 at 6:56 PM

Updated Friday, Feb 5 at 9:17 AM

KIRKLAND, Wash. - A new breed of ID thieves are cloning your ATM and credit cards without you knowing about it. Detective Don Carroll with the Kirkland Police Department recently busted up a theft ring who targeted credit card numbers stolen from car break-ins.

The thieves would use a card skimmer that reads the magnetic strip in the back of the card. Next, the thieves would load the information onto a computer and then duplicate the cards. The victim's didn't even realize their identification was stolen Carroll says the crooks "would not physically take the cards... He would take the magnetic strip information from the card that was skimmed, and placed it onto another card. And they would go out and charge the card."

Authorities say the credit card cloning equipment was bought off the Internet for just a few thousand dollars. The information from credit cards was transferred to gift cards using a specially equipped card reader/writers. Those gift cards were used to rack up thousands of dollars of fraudulent charges.

Janis Rabuchin says a complete stranger charged up her credit card even though the card never left her sight. According to Rabuchin, she didn't realize the crime until she received her monthly credit card bill.

"I have my credit card and so does my husband. It seems a little suspicious and you wonder how can somebody have my credit card number."

Detectives suspect Rabuchin's information and hundreds of others were stolen using a card skimmers hidden inside gas pumps around Seattle, Bellevue and Bothell.

Assistant special agent Bob Kierstead works the Secret Service Electronics Crimes Task Force. According to Kierstead once the thieves collect the information from the skimming device " they have probably hundreds if not thousands of credit cards and information at their disposal."

In the last 6 weeks, a cell of ID thieves have targeted gas stations around Western Washington with their skimmers. Authorities say the group has been using "cloned" cards at ATM's in Washington, Oregon and California. The Secret Service estimates the cell has made off with hundreds of thousands of dollars from unsuspecting victim's bank accounts. According to Kierstead, "It's a fast easy way to make money and it's illegal."

The best protection is to check your bank and credit statements once a week. Also, investigators say avoid letting your debit cards out of your sight. Still, the thieves are getting away with your money.>/p>

"The technology is out there. It's fairly simple for fairly unsophisticated criminals to engage in these criminal activities," said Kierstead.

Victims like Rabuchin just want the culprits caught.

"It sounds like the thieves out there are getting pretty savvy. It's troubling," she said.

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