HOWELL – Two ATM skimmers stole over $70,000 from cardholders in Howell, Manasquan, Wall, Fair Haven and surrounding areas in the past few months, according to Howell Police.
An ATM “skimmer” is a device that someone places over the ATM card slot, where you slide in your debit card, that’s designed to look like it is part of the machine. It captures account information for every card that passes through it, allowing customers to proceed with their transaction without knowing it is there. ATM skimmers also use pinhole cameras to watch customers enter their pin numbers, or false numerical pads placed over real ones that capture customers’ PIN numbers as they type.
Police need help identifying the two suspects, who rented cars from an agency in Brooklyn that have since been returned. One suspect has used the name Michele Toto and presented an Italian driver’s license to rent the car, which is most likely a fake ID.
Officers were first notified of the theft and fraud on September 11 after employees of Manasquan Bank on Route 9 in Howell noticed the surveillance camera attached to the ATM was blurry. An investigation showed that the suspects used lip balm on the camera lens to distort the image, and then made multiple ATM withdrawals in quick succession.
It was discovered by Detective Robert Ortenzi that the same two suspects also made ATM withdrawals at Manasquan Bank on Newton’s Corner Road, as well as Manasquan Bank branches in Manasquan and Wall, and First Constitution Bank in Fair Haven. Det. Ortenzi began working with the Manasquan Police and the list of banks quickly grew, as he they discovered the suspects placed ATM skimmer devices at the Manasquan Bank branch in Manasquan on three separate incidents in September, capturing data from hundreds of customer accounts.
Manasquan Bank employees eventually found the device on September 21, removed it, and notified Manasquan Police.
In Howell specifically, more than 100 fraudulent transactions were made by the two suspects from September 9 to October 1. Aside from the skimming device found in Manasquan, the majority of cardholders who had money fraudulently withdrawn were from other countries, such as Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
Anyone who used the Manasquan Bank ATM at 185 East Main Street from September 1 to 21 should notify their banks and take actions on their accounts to avoid fraud.