Bulgarian Charged in US over ATM "Skimmer"

June 6, 2010, Sunday| 1917 views

Bulgarian national Mihail Vasilev, 25, has been charged in connection with the installation of a card-reading device attached to an ATM outside a bank branch in North Ridgeville, Ohio, United States.

The device was discovered by a Charter One Bank employee.

Police says Vasilev appears to be part of a larger criminal organization with ties to Chicago and Bulgaria.

“It’s still early on, but I think that we’re going to find the money’s going back to Bulgaria,” Lt. Marti Garrow said, as cited by the online edition of Chronicle-Telegram.

Garrow said the Charter One employee found the device, commonly known as a “skimmer,” when she noticed that the color of the plastic surrounding it was a slightly different shade of gray. She then used her fingernail to pry the thin skimmer off the ATM and discovered it had been attached over the slot where customers insert their cards.

“It’s a professional job — the great majority of people wouldn’t notice it,” Garrow said.

The employee called Charter One security, who told police to search the surrounding area for a person with a laptop computer.

Police discovered the 25-year-old Vasilev in a car with Illinois plates parked in a nearby parking lot. Garrow said Vasilev couldn’t answer basic questions, and in his car officers found the laptop, cell phones, a GPS device and bonding agents that could have been used to affix the skimmer to the ATM.

Garrow said the Secret Service has been brought in to assist with the investigation. Finding a skimmer is actually pretty rare, Garrow said, because they blend in so well with the ATM.

Spotting it took a “very alert, very smart, very astute employee,” he said.

Police also found a tiny camera that had been hidden in fake molding on the ATM that gave a clear view of the ATM’s keypad.

The skimmer copies the information on the card as it’s inserted into the ATM, which continues to dispense money normally, and the camera records the customer’s PIN number, Garrow said.

Once equipped with that information, he said, the thieves can then clone the card and use the PIN to withdraw money from other ATMs.

Police tracked Vasilev, who remains in the Lorain County Jail while federal immigration authorities investigate whether he is in the United States legally, to the Red Roof Inn in Elyria, where he had been staying since last Saturday night with three other people.

By the time police searched their rooms on Tuesday, the three others had cleared out, Garrow said, but they left behind some material that could be used to mount skimming devices and receipts. The evidence gathered indicates they had been operating in the Toledo area before coming to Lorain County, he said.

Charter One Bank spokeswoman Carrie Carpenter said skimming devices are an industrywide problem and one of the reasons bank security officers review ATM security cameras.

“It’s constantly an issue,” she said.

She said the skimmer was installed about 8:30 a.m. Sunday, but was discovered around 3:30 p.m. that day. Only a few customers used the ATM while the skimmer was attached and all of those customers have been issued new ATM cards, Carpenter said.

Vasilev, whose listed address is in Chicago, appeared briefly before Elyria Municipal Court Judge Gary Bennett on Wednesday in a hearing that had to be conducted through a Bulgarian translator who was on speakerphone.

He is due back in court Tuesday.

Kenneth Lieux, one of Vasilev’s attorneys, said he questions why his client was even arrested on a charge of possession of criminal tools, the only one he faces so far. Laptops and GPS units are everyday items that only become criminal tools when used to commit a crime, he said.

“I think he’s being held on a lot of speculation at this point,” Lieux said. “My perspective is we need to see some evidence.”

ATM skimming crimes on rise - Toledo Blade

ATM skimming crimes on rise

Criminals refine techniques to steal banking information

June 10, 2012,

On May 12, a sharp-eyed customer using an automated teller machine at a Fifth Third Bank branch on West Central Avenue in Sylvania Township noticed something strange attached to the ATM and decided to notify the police.

What investigators found was a "skimmer" -- a custom-made electronic device that attaches to an ATM in order to record and steal a customer's bank card data and personal identification number.

Five days later in downtown Cleveland's theater district, just blocks from the city's new Horseshoe Casino, a suspect was caught using fake bank cards to withdraw money from a Fifth Third ATM. The man, an illegal immigrant from Bulgaria, had 24 fake bank cards and $6,000 in cash on him during the arrest and had taken $21,000 from various Fifth Third accounts using data stolen from the Sylvania Township ATM, the Ohio State Highway Patrol said.

Read the rest of the story at:
ATM skimming crimes on rise - Toledo Blade