Lompoc Police are advising Bank of America customers to check their bank accounts closely after two skimming devices were discovered in ATMs at a Lompoc bank this week.
On Wednesday, November 16, bank officials informed the Lompoc Police Department that two skimming devices had been found in their on-site ATMs at the Bank of America located at 1409 North H Street, Suite 110, in Lompoc. Lompoc Police officers were dispatched to the scene and collected the devices. An investigation is ongoing, but Lompoc Police say they don’t know how long the skimmers were in the ATMs or who may have been affected.
A skimmer is a small, virtually undetectable device inserted into the card slot of an ATM machine or point of payment. Once someone inserts their card into the slot, the device “skims” the strip on the back of the card, collecting account information embedded in the magnetic strip. Simultaneously, a hidden camera aimed at the PIN pad captures the victim’s security PIN. The suspects who planted the device will retrieve it within a few days, then download the information and clone the debit card information onto a blank debit card. Lompoc Police did not indicate if a hidden camera was used in this instance.
If you believe your account may be compromised, Lompoc Police advise calling and alerting the bank and requesting a new card.
Lompoc Police have warned the public to be wary of the potential of skimming devices being placed on ATMs, gas pumps, and other mechanisms that could lead to bank or credit card information being stolen. The department suggests checking the area where you insert your card and reporting any possible problems with the machine to its owner or to the non-emergency Lompoc PD dispatch number at (805) 736-2341.
In August and September 2021, the Santa Barbara Police Department discovered numerous skimming devices on Bank of America ATMs across Santa Barbara following dozens of reports of unauthorized withdrawals totaling more than $50,000. The debit cards affected in that case were primarily California Employment Development Department cards, which typically don’t have EMV security chips. SBPD detectives believed a four-person team was responsible in that case.
No arrests have been made in connection to the Santa Barbara skimmers, according to SBPD Detective Kyle Rapp. According to experts in these types of cases that the department has consulted with, the culprits in skimming crimes often turn out to be transitory foreign nationals of Eastern European descent without any state or U.S. identification, making it difficult to identify them or pinpoint their whereabouts.
Rapp said that the department has discovered a few more skimming devices in the past couple of months, but so far there have been no more reports of fraudulent withdrawals. In the year since 2021’s crime spree targeting EDD-card holders, the EDD — which has an exclusive contract with Bank of America, according to Rapp — has added EMV security chips to its cards. Rapp said the reason there have not been any reports of fraudulent withdrawals yet in connection to those recently discovered skimmers could be that the scammers have not yet cracked how to collect the account information embedded in the chips.
Because the devices are nearly undetectable to the naked eye, Rapp advised customers using ATMs to cover their hand while entering their PIN to block the sightline of any potential hidden cameras. Barring that, he said, your safest bet is to go inside and deal directly with a bank teller.
Update: This story was updated on November 18, 2022, to include additional information from the Santa Barbara Police Department about its case.