Aspen police are investigating a fraud case in which thousands of dollars have been stolen from individuals after someone placed a skimming device on an ATM at a local bank, compromising customers’ credit and debit cards.
Aspen Police Department (APD) detective Walter Chi declined to specify which bank was targeted. However, the surveillance footage released to the APD indicates it is the ATM at the ANB Bank, located on Main Street. The ATM was compromised between Dec. 22 and Dec. 29.
The bank provided the APD with video of the suspected thief installing and removing the skimmer, which is a small electronic device that copies data from the cards inserted into the ATM or other automatic pay stations. The copied data then allows for the creation of a duplicate credit or ATM card.
Chi said he believes the device installed locally included a camera used for recording an individual’s pin number so new cards could be reprogrammed.
Chi said the first report of fraud came into the APD on Jan. 7 from an individual who said fraudulent transactions occurred on their card on Jan. 3. On Jan. 8, police received two more fraud reports. Chi said the APD knows about three cases, but he expects more reports to come in. One individual reported that $1,600 was taken out of his bank account.
“It’s significant numbers,” Chi said. “People are losing everything.”
Once the APD was alerted to the fraudulent activity, the bank was contacted and it reviewed its surveillance tape, providing footage to police.
“I wish we would have caught them,” Chi said. “They are pretty savvy; they placed [the device] within seconds.”
Transactions and withdrawals on the compromised cards have occurred at City Market in Aspen, the Safeway in Glenwood Springs and several ATMs in Snowmass, El Jebel, Denver, Avon and as far away as New York, Chi said.
He is currently obtaining video from those locations, and has reviewed some surveillance in an attempt to identify the suspects.
“To me, it looks like two different people but they are careful in their disguise,” Chi said, adding the suspects in some instances were wearing “Elmer Fudd” type hats and were cognizant of not looking directly into surveillance cameras when making transactions on the fraudulent cards.
Chi said most of the victims were likely out-of-town guests, visiting Aspen over the holiday week. Now that it’s been nearly a month, they are receiving their bank statements or reviewing their accounts and realizing that they are victims of fraud.
According to police, the bank has contacted all customers who used the ATM during that time frame, and issued them new cards.
Chi said he doesn’t know if skimming devices have been placed anywhere else in the Aspen area.
“Because we are aware that criminal activity was occurring in town, it is possible that other credit card readers may have been similarly compromised,” he said. “We recommend that everyone check their bank accounts for fraudulent activity, and continue to monitor them.”
He also advised that ATM users should cover the keypad when entering their pin numbers.