Middle Eastern crime ring blamed for hacking bank accounts in LA, TX

Middle Eastern crime ring blamed for hacking bank accounts in LA, TX
These skimmers allowed perpetrators to read cards and gather PINs. (FOX 8 Photo)
These skimmers allowed perpetrators to read cards and gather PINs. (FOX 8 Photo)

ST. TAMMANY PARISH, LA (WVUE) - The St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office says members of a Middle Eastern and Armenian interstate crime ring are behind the skimmers installed on Whitney and Resource Bank ATMs on Friday.

Sheriff Jack Strain said the electronics were removed that night, approximately 12 hours later. The skimmers were specific to the type of ATM, not the bank. Strain said that means any bank with that brand of ATM could be a victim.

The perpetrators in St. Tammany Parish are suspected to be from the Miami, FL area and are believed to have hit the Dallas area before traveling through Louisiana.

The ATMs were installed with a molded plastic cover over the existing credit card slot and outfitted with a tiny card reader. They also installed a pinhole camera above the keypad, enabling them to see the customer's PIN, Strain said.

Despite detecting the scheme in less than 12 hours, the crew was still trying to make withdrawals using the credit card numbers on Tuesday in Celebration, FL. Authorities estimated more than 7,000 customers were affected as of Monday.

The sheriff's office is working with the U.S. Secret Service locally and in Florida, as well as with law enforcement agencies in other parishes, state police and representatives from the banking industry.

Call 985-898-2338 if you think your account may have been hacked.

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