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2 arrested for placing skimming device at Thousand Oaks bank

February 6, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Two people were arrested for placing a skimming device at a Chase Bank branch in Thousand Oaks.

Aram Dzhanszyan, 31, and Arman Ter Mkrtchyan, 37, were taken into custody Sunday for allegedly attaching a device onto the ATM door entry vestibule of the branch located on the 1600 block of North Moorpark Road.

The device captures account information embedded on the bank customer's credit card magnetic stripe. Video recording equipment also was attached to the ATM with a view of the personal identification number (PIN) entry keypad.

Skimming operations are not new, but Ventura County Sheriff's Sgt. Roger Dewames says the scammers in this case added a new twist: They placed the actual skimmer device on the card-reader at the lobby door. And they got people's PIN numbers by imbedding a tiny camera in a false veneer over the ATM's keypad.

"You would never actually detect that. And the camera faces away from the customer so they would never be able to identify it," said Dewames. "It was so clean and professionally done that I would never have picked it up."

Fortunately for the 90 people who swiped their cards on the bogus device Sunday, their banking information remains safe. Secret Service agents got wind of the skimmer and after a stakeout with Thousand Oaks police officers, two suspects were arrested in the surrounding parking lot, their car said to be packed with skimmers and other related equipment.

"As our technology improves and our skills improve to catch them, their skills improve to find other ways of doing the same thing," said Dewames.

Officials said bank customers should use a different card containing a magnetic stripe to gain entry into an ATM vestibule. They said a grocery-store rewards card or gift card with a magnetic stripe should open the exterior door to access the ATM. Customers also should cover their hand while typing their bank PIN onto the ATM keypad.