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Skimming scam continues to target EDD debit card holders in Santa Barbara and beyond

Skimming crews target EDD debit card holders in Santa Barbara and beyond

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Santa Barbara police say ATM skimmers have struck again - and again - along the coast.

Dozens of Bank of America customers using Employment Development Department debit cards have reported unauthorized withdrawals.

Investigators are trying to find the people behind more than $50,000 dollars in fraudulent withdrawals.

They advise people with EDD or unemployment benefit cards to go inside the bank for transactions.

Felipe Sandoval banks at Bank of America and has an EDD debit card.

"I have my personal savings account with Bank of America, plus my EDD benefits that I get. They are all through Bank of America, so I just wanted to come and take a look to speak to somebody, but I get here, and it is 5 o'clock and they are actually closed, so that is a bummer."

The bank had a note taped to the door that sad it is closing at 4 p.m. rather than at 6 p.m.

In July, detectives released photos of a four-person crew suspected of stealing debit card information from ATM machines at Bank of America on upper State Street in Santa Barbara.

Now they are saying it is happening at branches up and down the coast.

Irene Hernandez said she knows some of the victims who had trouble contacting the EDD.

She said one mother of a little boy had $10,000 taken from her account.

Santa Barbara Police Sergeant Ethan Ragsdale said, "Ultimately, what we always recommend with skimming devices installed in ATMS, nearly impossible to detect with your own eye, we always recommend going into the bank and talking with an actual teller."

Detectives said skimming crews conceal the devices used to steal information and then use the information to withdraw thousands of dollars from the victims' accounts.

EDD debit card do not have security chips or magnetic strips making them easier to target.

Police said that would cost about $25 dollars per card, so it was probably a money-saving measure to issue cards without the extra security.

Bank of America is contracted to handle the cards. The bank did not comment on the recent crimes but some victims said they worked with EDD to get reimbursed.

Detectives believe the suspects may be operating alongside legitimate customers.

Anyone with information regarding these crimes is urged to contact Santa Barbara police detective Kyle Rapp by email or at 805-897-2331.

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Tracy Lehr

Tracy Lehr is a reporter and the weekend anchor of NewsChannel 3-12. To learn more about Tracy, click here

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