‘The scale is staggering,’ police say after sneaky information-stealing devices linked to gangs in six states

SIX people have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in a conspiracy to steal customers’ credit card details.

The scammers, who are in the country illegally, have allegedly installed credit card scanning devices on ATMs and other payment machines in several states.

A group of illegal immigrants aged 20 to 23 were arrested after they allegedly installed skimming devices on credit card terminals across New EnglandSource: KTLA
Six immigrants allegedly withdrew $300,000 from victims’ accountsSource: KTLA
Skimming technology involves small devices placed in credit card terminals that automatically steal customer card informationSource: Getty

Officials announced Tuesday that six illegal immigrants have been charged, CW affiliate KTLA reported.

“Charging documents allege that members of the conspiracy placed skimming devices locally in bank ATMs in Bristol and Westerly, Rhode Island, and in retail checkout terminals in Johnston, Warwick, and Coventry, Rhode Island, and in Avon, Raynham, Seekonk, and Walpole, Massachusetts,” the arrest affidavit states.

The Department of Homeland Security has discovered skimming devices at more than 20 locations of a major retailer, including in Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and New York.

“The conspiracy is alleged to have withdrawn more than $300,000 from the bank accounts of unsuspecting victims on-site and made an unknown number of purchases at retail locations.”

Skimming devices allow criminals to capture account information and PINs when a customer inserts their debit or credit card into an ATM or point-of-sale terminal.

These devices are often so small that customers may not notice them if they are not looking for information.

In addition to installing skimming technology into devices, some thieves even place a microscopic video camera in payment terminals to record customers entering their PINs.

What is a skimmer device?

A skimmer is a tool used to steal confidential information from credit or debit cards during transactions.

  • Imagine that a skimmer is a sneaky thief hiding in ATMs or payment terminals.
  • Its job is to secretly steal your credit or debit card details as you use it to make a transaction.
  • These devices act as tiny spies that can copy your card details, including your card number and PIN, without you even realizing it.
  • Skimmers can be cleverly disguised to look like regular card readers, making them difficult to detect.
  • Once bad guys get your details, they can use them to make counterfeit cards or buy something without your permission, which can cause a lot of trouble and stress for you.
  • It is important to always exercise caution and check for anything unusual happening at your payment terminals to protect yourself from these insidious devices.

The six men arrested allegedly stole account details from victims as they used self-service checkouts at retail stores and ATMs.

Rhode Island State Police uncovered the alleged operation in October 2023 when skimming devices were found at a local bank branch in Bristol.

Walmart shoppers warned as thieves caught on camera placing info-stealing devices at self-checkout lanes – $300K lost in seconds

“The scale, scope, and brazen nature of these defendants’ fraud to steal financial account information from unsuspecting consumers and use it to misappropriate funds and assets, as we alleged in federal court, is staggering,” said U.S. Attorney Cunha.

All of the people involved in the case are in their twenties, with their ages ranging from 20 to 23.

Four of the six group members are Romanian citizens, while the other two are from Ireland and the UK.

“The ATM and point-of-sale skimming equipment they used operated quickly and efficiently to steal credit card information, allowing them to clone and illegally access the credit cards, bank accounts, and other financial accounts of unsuspecting victims,” said Michael J. Krol, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New England.

“HSI is a leader in illicit finance investigations and is committed to working with our public and private sector partners to protect the integrity of our financial systems.”

All suspects in the theft have been charged, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald R. Gendron is prosecuting the case.

“I commend the outstanding work of Homeland Security Investigations, as well as our local law enforcement partners, for their diligent and effective work to dismantle this ring of thieves and ensure that those responsible face federal prosecution,” Cuhna said.

While it can be difficult to spot skimming devices on computers, there are ways shoppers can keep themselves safe.

If you notice anything unusual when using your credit card reader or if the device appears to have been tampered with, consider changing the device.

Card readers do not slide easily in official devices and should not come loose if moved.

If possible, try to use an ATM located in a bank branch rather than an ATM at a gas station or a stand-alone one, as these locations are more likely to be exposed to skimming devices.

If you suspect a skimming device has been placed on a machine, notify your business manager immediately.