MANDEVILLE, LA (WVUE) - State Police and agents with the U.S. Secret Service are investigating ATM thefts in Louisiana along the I-10 corridor, and a north shore man said he was one of the victims.
Nick Christiana said he got a big surprise when he tried to buy gas Monday.
"This morning I went to go get gasoline to fill up my truck and my card got this disapproved," Christiana said.
He immediately contacted his bank, Whitney, and what he learned was even more surprising. Someone had been siphoning cash from his account without his knowledge.
"With mine, I had a credit limit of $500 cash per day and because the third day came around after two days of back-to-back days, that was irregular use. They put a flag on it and thank God for Whitney Bank they stopped it," he said.
Christiana said the last time he had used his PIN number was Friday night, but the withdrawals were made on Saturday and Sunday.
"They went to Mobile, Ala., and they took out $503 there. They went to Alberta, Ala., and they took out $103, and then twice in Pensacola they took out $203 and they did it after two o'clock on Saturday and Sunday," he said.
In all, the thieves took more than $1,000. He said he was emphatic with bank staffers that he had been victimized.
"I pointed out to her how can I be in Mobile, Ala., at two o'clock on Saturday afternoon and be in Mandeville at three o'clock?' said Christiana.
Whitney Bank has acknowledged that it is one of the banks targeted. The bank issued the following press release on Monday.
Louisiana State Police believe a band of thieves is attaching skimmers on ATMs along the interstate, including in Texas, Mississippi and Florida.
"We've determined that it's come down from ATM skimming devices. Basically it's a small device placed on the exterior of an ATM machine that actually captures that ATM card information," said State Police Sgt. Nick Manale.
The U.S. Secret Service Office in Baton Rouge said such crimes are becoming more common, and there are new cases monthly.
"It's actually becoming very common because you can buy the stuff on the Internet," said Special Agent Jacquelyn Norris of the Secret Service.
She said pulling on the front of the area where ATM cards are inserted may help detect the skimming devices.
"Nobody really knows that it's there unless you start fiddling around and notice that something's off," she said.
Christiana is thrilled the money stolen from his account will be restored.
"They assured me that within 48 hours to the max two weeks that things will get cleared up, and I'll get the money reimbursed back into my account," he said.
He said he will not be using his PIN number anytime soon.
"I advise people do not use your PIN number, he said. "Use it as credit."
State Police and the Secret Service advise bank customers to check their bank account activity frequently.