Scammers use bitcoin, fake chips to steal

Local News

As the technology to prevent theft improves, scammers come up with new ways to steal your money.

“This is what they do for a living,” said Corp. Dennis Rozier, of the Bay County Sheriff’s Office. “They spend a lot of time whenever new security features come out trying to defeat it trying to get around it.”

Those methods include tried and true technology like skimmers that steal the information from magnetic strips on credit or debit cards and simply calling people to convince them that they must pay for a warrant, pay the IRS or bail a relative out of jail. 

Recently, Rozier and the team at the BCSO Financial Crimes Unit discovered scammers were sending people to specific ATMs in Bay county so that they could pay for a “warrant” using bitcoin. 

The agency put out a warning at those ATMs to try and avoid people from falling for the scam, but Rozier said at least one victim sent her money anyways. 

Obviously, warrants are signed by judges and can’t be rescinded with a payment, he said.

“Law enforcement will not take money to erase a warrant,” Rozier said. 

Convincing someone to send you their money is one way to steal. Another, is cloning a debit or credit card. Rozier said some criminals are already able to defeat the pin system through several different methods. 

Scammers are also adept at stealing card and phone information via the WiFi or Bluetooth broadcast system used by cards and phones. With the right equipment, a criminal can get your financial information without ever sticking their hands into your wallet. 

While it took years for America to move to have a computer chip in their credit and debit cards, it is already time to update the security method, Rozier said. For one, a two factor system, which requires the customer to approve the purchase on their phone once the card is used, would help prevent some of these crimes. 

“That way a criminal would have to clone your phone and your credit card,” Rozier said.

One of the most popular methods is still placing skimmer machines on top of the card readers at gas stations and even retailers. Rozier said investigators recently removed five skimmers out of gas pump machines in Panama City Beach.

They are also working a case where a two-man team used an ice chest to block the view of a clerk while they placed a skimmer inside a business. 

“There are very well organized syndicates that do this nationwide,” Rozier said. 

And while law enforcement hunts down the crooks, honest citizens can do a few things to protect themselves. 

“The best thing to do is safeguard your information,” said Corp. Donald Knorr of the Panama City Police Department. “Never write your pin number on your card.”

And, when a victim sees that someone is using their card they must report it as soon as possible, Knorr said. That way, officers can get to the location where the card was used and, hopefully, get video of the suspect.

Financial institutions like Tyndall Federal Credit Union, are also working to stop scams.

“In 2017 Tyndall installed anti-skimming card readers at all of our ATMs. With this new type of card reader instead of inserting the card with the short side first which allowed the card skimmer to read the entire mag strip. With this new anti-skimming card reader you insert the card lengthwise which eliminates the threat of this card skimming device,” said Tom Llewellyn, Tyndall’s Chief Information Officer. “Tyndall’s ATMs are also microchip enabled. So the same information that is stored on the mag strip is also stored in the microchip on your card. And it is much safer to use the chip-enabled reader than swiping your card with a mag strip.”

Knorr said his department sees a fraud case nearly every day. And it involved everything from career criminals and scammers to family members who grab a card and the information they need to steal.

Meanwhile, residents can also be on the lookout for skimmers. Rozier suggested taking a good look at the machine a person is using before they use it. Rozier said of you can even pull on it, though not too hard, to make sure someone hasn’t placed a skimmer on top of the machine. 

And, hang up on strangers who ask you for personal information.

“Tyndall will never call you or email you to ask you for personal information such as your account number, login ID, password, or other non-public information,” Llewellyn said.

Another suggestion is to use a credit cards instead of a debit card when making purchases. 

“If you use a credit card you are using someone else’s money,” Rozier said. “I wouldn’t play with your money, I would play with someone else’s money.” 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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