Information from more than 150 debit cards stolen in the Tri-Cities

Police departments across the Tri-Cities are getting slammed with fraudulent ATM withdrawal reports. Since Feb. 13, information from more than 150 accounts have been stolen using card skimming.

Some of the first cases were reported in Pasco, then a domino effect to Kennewick and Richland.

“To have something that has affected so many people in our community and the numbers are so high — yes, that is rare,” said Cerise Peck, Richland Police Crime Prevention Specialist. “This is a rather large sum of money and this is a rather large sum of victims for this area.”

Here’s a breakdown of the stolen information by city:

Kennewick: 92 accounts totaling about $50,000.
Richland: About 50
Pasco: More than 20
West Richland: 0

According to Kennewick Police, the suspects took out cash from HAPO ATMs all over the Tri-Cities. However, victims used several other banks including Gesa Credit Union and US Bank. Detectives narrowed down one location where a card reader was compromised, but they’re working to determine other potential locations.

Information was stolen from a point of sale reader inside a Chevron located near Jadwin Avenue and McMurray Street, according to Sgt. Aaron Clem with Kennewick Police. They do not believe any employees are involved.

So what can you do to prevent falling victim to fraud?

“The number one way to make sure your card is protected at the pump is to pay cash,” Peck said. “Check the actual card reader. You can wiggle it to make sure it’s not loose. However, that’s not always a foolproof way to know whether or not that that card reader has been compromised.”

Another tip is choosing to use credit instead of debit. It’ll minimize using your pin number so a potential thief can’t get ahold of it. Also, use a chip, if you have one. Swiping your card puts you at risk for fraud.

“Card readers can be put inside the gas pump instead of on the outside, which a consumer would never be able to check that at that point,” Peck explained. “Sometimes it’s a camera that’s used to record for the stolen debit card.”

In addition, try to use a pump closest to the attendant’s window.

“The attendant is looking through the window,” Peck said. “It’s less likely that the pump that’s closest to the business is the one that’s been rigged or has the reader on it.”

Police from multiple agencies have released photos of the people they believe are involved. The photos came from ATM cameras. Detectives describe the possible vehicle as a newer Kia Sorento SUV.

As for how they’re able to access hundreds of accounts, police are still trying to determine that.

“Technology changes for the criminal as well,” Peck explained. “They come up with new methods. They come up with new schemes.”

Detectives will continue to cross-reference victims and where they used their cards to see if any more skimmers can be located.

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