published Monday, October 24th, 2011

Rash of thefts at ATMs in Nashville, Chattanooga

  • photo
    Surveillance photo of a burgundy or red Audi, bearing a distinctive black designer-type tag on the front, taken at the drive through ATM at Walnut Avenue and Tibbs Road in Dalton, Ga. The driver of the vehicle is suspected of being involved in the placement of a card skimmer device at the Regions Bank ATM.
    Photo Courtesy Dalton Police Department

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Federal investigators say there has been a rash of cases of bank account information being stolen at ATMs in Nashville and Chattanooga and some thieves have been arrested.

Crooks use a device called a skimmer, a card reader that is placed over the regular card slots on bank machines to capture account information. They can also get PIN numbers for the accounts by placing cameras near the ATMs.

"We've investigated probably 10 cases of skimming in the past year in Nashville, though not all have resulted in arrests or prosecution," said Greg Mays, assistant to the special agent in charge at the U.S. Secret Service field office in Nashville.

Two suspects were arrested in Nashville last week, according to The Tennessean. The Secret Service and the Metro Nashville Police Department said the men are suspected of stealing money using bank account information skimmed in the Chattanooga area.

Arrested on Oct. 18 were Atanas Georgiev, 28, of Atlanta, and Chris Dragiev, 27, of Kennesaw, Ga. They are accused of theft of between $1,000 and $10,000 from three victims from the Chattanooga and Rossville, Ga., area, police said.

Regions found skimmers attached to some of its ATMs in Dalton, Ga., and East Ridge, Tenn..

"We have technology on our ATMs that looks for anomalies and tells us when a skimmer has been placed on the machine," said Bill Burch, chief of security for Birmingham, Ala.-based Regions Bank.

A bank in Dalton captured mages of two men in a red Audi hooking a skimmer onto the machine.

"We got that one off the machine and got the photos to police quickly," Burch said. "No customer information was taken there."

The thieves were tracked to Nashville, where they were arrested while in a sport utility vehicle, but police said they had the keys to the Audi with them.

Customers of other banks have also been victimized. Thieves used the information of a Bank of America customer in Nashville to withdraw $400 from a Sovereign Bank ATM in New York City, authorities said.

Lt. Stephen Duncan said Nashville Police have been investigating skimming for years, some of it involving thieves hooking the devices onto gas pumps at convenience stores, sometimes in collusion with store clerks.

Duncan suggested buyers try to shield the keypad with the other hand as PIN numbers are punched in. He also said purchases billed as credit cards, rather than debits, might protect victims from liability and noted the money doesn't instantly come out of the victim's checking account like with a debit purchase.

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