Recently, Dinu Horvat was convicted of a host of charges including conspiracy to commit bank fraud and aggravated identity theft in regard to a scheme in which he installed skimmers on ATMs and hidden cameras to observe people using the ATMs as they input their PINs. Skimmers are small devices that can read a credit or debit card and capture the information on the card for the criminal to use. They may be installed on an ATM or a gas pump or any other device into which you directly swipe your credit card or debit card Horvat installed these devices on ATMs in New Jersey, Connecticut and Florida. Along with his accomplices, twelve of whom have already pleaded guilty to charges related to the scam, he managed to steal more than five million dollars from the accounts of thousands of customers. Horvat will be sentenced in June and faces a maximum prison sentence of thirty years.
So what can you do to protect yourself? The first line of defense is to always check the particular ATM you are using for evidence of tampering such as loose fitting pieces in the slot where you insert your card. This could be evidence of the installation of a skimmer. Also, cover your hand as you input your PIN. Also, feel around the keypad to make sure that plastic covering has not been placed over the keypad, as this is another way that scammers obtain your PIN. These plastic covers can have electronic sensors to steal your PIN. However, the best thing you can do is probably to regularly monitor your account balance online so that if you become a victim of identity theft due to an identity thief getting access to your account through an ATM, you can limit the damage and report it to the bank immediately. It is not very comforting to know that no matter how careful you are, banks with less than appropriate ATM security put you in jeopardy, but that, unfortunately, is a fact of modern life.