Authorities in New York have busted three men on charges they planted skimming devices on cash machines in Manhattan to rip off debit card numbers and make fraudulent transactions.
Nikolai Ivanov, 31; Dimitar Stamatov, 28; and Iordan Ivanov, 24, were charged last week in an 81-count indictment. The charges, which included identity theft, grand larceny, burglary, criminal possession of forgery devices and scheme to defraud, stem from a five-day-long "skimming spree" in January in Manhattan, according to the New York County district attorney's office.
The trio entered the United States from Quebec and drove to New York, where they seeded four ATMs with skimming devices within a mile radius of Union Square, a popular park in downtown Manhattan, prosecutors said.
The equipment they used consisted of a green plastic lip that was placed over the machine's reader to hijack card numbers, and a hidden camera to record the PINs as they were being entered, prosecutors said. The defendants then used the stolen information to create cloned cards that were used to make $264,000 in fraudulent transactions, including cash withdrawals and point-of-sale purchases, in Arizona, Illinois and Canada.
In May, Nikolai Ivanov and Stamatov were arrested by New York City police as they tried to retrieve one of the devices from a bank branch. They remain in prison in lieu of $500,000 bail, while Iordan Ivanov, Nikolai's brother, has not been caught.
Stamatov and Nikolai Ivanov both pleaded innocent last week at an arraignment, Stamatov's lawyer, Mark Bederow, told SCMagazineUS.com on Tuesday. He said his client's next court appearance is scheduled for January. He declined to comment further on the case.
Ivanov's lawyer could not be reached for comment.
ATM skimming is a growing vector for financial fraud. A November 2010 from the Better Business Bureau said the technology is used to steal about $1 billion annually, and one in five people have fallen victim to such heists.
In a news release, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. suggested users take steps to protect their security, including examining ATMs for "fixtures that appear impermanent or imperfect" and covering up the PIN pad as they enter in their credentials.
"In order to thwart ATM skimming operations, it is critical not only for law enforcement and financial institutions to take proactive investigative measures, but also to raise awareness among consumers about the practice of ATM skimming," he said.