2 men charged with planting skimming devices on Houston ATMs

Card numbers, access codes gained at Capital One banks

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - Federal agents arrested a pair of Fort Bend County men Tuesday and charged them with compromising the personal information of hundreds of Houston-area bank customers.

Federal court documents read the pair gained access to card numbers and access codes by placing skimming devices on drive-through ATMs at several Capital One banks.

According to a criminal complaint filed in Houston federal court, investigators with Capital One contacted the United States Secret Service in early January after discovering a "skimming" operation. The complaint reads from "November 2013 to present time" a total of 35 skimming devices were found on drive-through ATMs at 10 Capital One banks in the Houston area.

Federal officials have not yet released specific addresses for all of the banks involved in this investigation.

Secret Service agents wrote that the devices captured card numbers and personal identification numbers for 375 customers.

The case gained momentum in April when surveillance cameras at a Capital One Bank off the Tomball Parkway captured a man installing a skimming device on an ATM. Secret Service agents were then able to begin surveillance on that person and another man.

Court records read prior to this incident, surveillance video of individuals suspected of placing skimming devices on ATMs were wearing gloves and had hats pulled down low to help obscure facial features.

In late May, federal charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and access device fraud were filed against Tokunbo Patrick Aiyewa, 27, and Bernard Nwachan Akwar, 27. When Local 2 tried to reach both of these men at their homes, there was no answer.

Secret Service agents wrote that the men used a two-part device to capture customers' information. Federal agents stated that one part of the device fit directly over an ATM's card reader so that it looked like a part of the machine. Court documents read the second part of the device was painted to match the color of the ATM and would capture a customer's PIN as it was entered on the machine's keypad.

Dan Parsons, with the Houston Better Business Bureau, said this case highlights why customers must pay attention to the machines they are using as much as who is around them when using an ATM.

Parsons said in past skimming cases, crooks heavily damaged machines to install skimming devices, yet customers thought the damage was simply due to high volume use and were never suspicious.

Parsons warns ATM customers to carefully look at the machine they are using to see if there are signs of damage, tampering or anything that looks out of the ordinary.

Secret Service agents declined to discuss specifics of this case, citing that it is an ongoing investigation. However, Secret Service did say customers can touch an ATM's card reader to see if it is loose or easily pulls off.

"The security of our customers' information is of the highest priority to us," read a statement Capital One sent to Local 2. "Capital One employs an extensive security program in partnership with law enforcement, and we have processes in place to review and improve controls to stay ahead of new and ongoing threats such as 'skimming.' Additionally, Capital One has rigorous fraud protection systems in place - including regular inspections of ATMs to identify any irregular activity and 24-hour video surveillance to identify criminal activity."

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