News 5 Investigates

Jul 7, 2014 4:46 PM by Eric Ross

News 5 Investigates: Understanding how local fraud ring stole more than $100,000 from unsuspecting people

The search continues for two suspects involved in a massive identity theft ring targeting people across Colorado.

Last week, police arrested Geider Morales, 24, following a search warrant. Kimberly Danais Navas, 21, and Eriec Joseph Rodriguez-Morales, 32, remain on the run.

Court papers obtained by News 5 Monday say the group was installing "card skimmer" technology at gas stations across El Paso County.

Authorities say they have identified more than 50 victims from Denver, El Paso County, and Pueblo.

"These were not isolated incidents," Lt. Steve Burk with the Monument Police Department said. "They are all connected."

Skimmers vary by looks, making them hard for police to spot and even harder for the consumer to notice.

According to Colorado Springs Police, this trio was using a data transfer cable installed to the back of a card reader to collect data.

"In some cases data can be transmitted remotely via bluetooth," Det. Joshua Bliss said. "In other cases, data is stored on a computer data chip where the device would have to be removed for them (the thieves) to obtain that information."

Once thieves have that data, they begin the cloning process.

"Essentially what they are doing is taking your credit card number, using a software program, and encoding it onto the magnetic strip of another card," Bliss said.

Fraudulent activity has been documented at retail stores and food chains across the state. Springs police are now encouraging everyone to inspect card readers before
sliding your credit or debit card.

"There have been a lot of retail establishments that have taken great steps to secure their devices and place security tape over the sections that could be removed so
you can see if a seal has been broken or not," Bliss said.
Anyone with information related to this criminal activity is asked to call the Colorado Springs Police Department, Monument Police Department, or the El Paso County Sheriff's Office.

CSPD: 444-7000
Monument PD: 481-3253
EPCSO: 390-5555

ATM technology and security expert Brian Krebs says there are a few things ATM users can do to minimize their risk of becoming a victim.

1. Avoid the ATM on the weekend (if possible).  Identity thieves usually install skimmers when banks are closed so that bank employees won't discover it for a day or so.

2. Avoid using an ATM at a facility that has Out of Order signs on machines.  Scammers often try to drive people to use compromised machines by putting Out of Order signs on uncompromised machines.

3. Check the PIN pad.  If it doesn't seem flush or looks too thick, it might be capable of capturing your PIN.

4. Check out the whole machine.  If the fit and finish seems off, or if there are pieces that don't match in color or texture, don't use it.

5. Try to jiggle the card reader.  There shouldn't be any play.  If there is, don't use it.

6. Cover your hand when you enter your pin.  Many PIN reading cameras are mounted above and covering your hand prevents them from recording your PIN.

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