York man accused of ‘skimming’ ATM cards

A midstate bank and its customers were targets of an ATM fraud technique that is on the rise across America, federal prosecutors say.

Twelve customers of ACNB Bank were the victims of a “skimming” scheme perpetrated by a York City man, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

Jeshua Paonessa-Velez, 24, was indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury in Harrisburg and charged with bank fraud and identity theft, federal officials said today. He is not in custody.

According to the indictment, between Nov. 1 and Nov. 7, 2014, Paonessa-Velez devised a scheme to obtain money from ACNB Bank customers by placing a “skimming” device on one of the bank’s ATMs.

Paonessa-Velez was able to capture identification information of bank customers using that ATM, load that information onto access devices and make purchases, the indictment alleges.

ACNB Bank and the retail establishments where Paonessa-Velez allegedly made the purchases cooperated in the investigation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said, and the bank reimbursed all of the affected customers.

Skimming has boomed across the country in recent years, industry and law enforcement officials say, with the necessary technology becoming increasingly easy for criminals to obtain.

According to the FBI, skimming is usually a two-step process.

Realistic-looking card readers are placed over the real slot, storing the electronic information from unsuspecting’ customers’ cards.

The process usually involves use of a hidden camera, so criminals can see the pin number they will need to activate the cloned cards they create using the stolen account information.

Such devices are often left in place for only a short time, during which criminals only need to target a few victims to make the effort profitable.

Police and FBI investigators offer several tips to consumers:

• Inspect the ATM, gas pump or credit card reader for any suspicious characteristics before using it. Devices in high-traffic, closely watched areas are best, as skimmers tend to target ATMs where they aren’t as likely to be seen.

• Shield the keypad with your free hand while entering your PIN number.

• If your card isn’t returned after the transaction or after hitting “cancel,” immediately contact your financial institution.

• Check your statements regularly and be aware of your bank’s fraud protection policies.

Roger DuPuis
Roger DuPuis covers Cumberland County, health care, transportation, distribution, energy and environment. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at rdupuis@cpbj.com.

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