ATM Cards Pirated For Plenty, Police Say; Ploy Used Cameras

By David Abel, Globe Staff

Using small cameras and secretly-installed ATM card readers, a thief stole private bank card information from more than 400 ATM users in Greater Boston and withdrew at least $400,000 from their accounts over the past two years, police alleged yesterday.

Ioan Emil Codarcea, a Romanian national, allegedly mounted the spy cameras and magnetic card readers on ATM machines in communities throughout the region, including Canton, Cambridge, Needham, Wellesley, and Woburn.

The magnetic card readers -- which looked legitimate -- were sometimes installed on the doors leading to the ATM machines. Other times they were mounted on top of an ATM's actual card reader. They recorded users' card information while the cameras captured images of users punching in their PIN numbers, which were transmitted to Codarcea's laptop computer, police said.

Armed with the information, Codarcea duplicated the magnetic strips and produced his own ATM cards, attaching a sticker on each where he scribbled the PIN number, police said. Working with accomplices, he then visited cash machines in downtown Boston and along Route 1, and withdrew cash from the accounts, they said.

Many customers, police said, were not aware they were being victimized until their banks notified them. Police did not name the banks involved, but said the customers were reimbursed for the money stolen.

Police say this type of theft, known as skimming, is becoming increasingly common.

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