Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott says two sharp-eyed men helped stop an effort to steal people's money with ATM skimmers over the weekend.
Lott spoke about the latest incidents in what he says is a recurring problem of people installing the devices on ATMs
Last Saturday, Lott says members of a Romanian gang put the skimmers on three bank ATMs on Clemson Road, North Main Street, and Decker Boulevard, then waited for victims to use it. However, two separate men who went up to two of the ATMs said they had seen recent warnings from deputies to check the machines for skimmers before using it. When they grabbed the card scanning portion, it came off from the machine.
The men then called law enforcement, who took the devices into custody and checked them for fingerprints and DNA.
Chris Mayers was one of the men who helped deputies find the skimmers.
"I'm just glad I helped everybody that I can help from getting your money stolen," Mayers said.
The people who installed the devices, Lott said, apparently were aware of that the devices had been confiscated, and never went back to the bank to collect them.
"We prevented so many victims this weekend from being victimized and having their money stolen," the sheriff said.
Lott says there's been a growing problem of Romanian gangs going around the country installing these devices. He says the group is training people who are part of their group how to scam people.
"They teach them how to beg, how to go to Walmart, how to stand on the street and they teach them how to put these skimmers on ATM machines," he said.
Lott also announced that they arrested a woman who took $33,000 from people using ATM skimmers in Columbia last year.
Officers say 27-year-old Denisa Bonculesco put the devices on machines last year. However, it took officers months to identify her, but finally, in March, they did. They eventually found that she had been arrested in Houston, Texas. She was brought to Columbia to faces charges in late May.
Lott says the people who put on the skimmers usually leave them up for only a day, and target times when people may be using ATMs a lot, such as holiday weekends or big events, such as Father's Day this last weekend. He says people should always check the ATM before using it to make sure the skimmer isn't on there. That can be done by pulling on the part where you swipe your card. He says if that comes off, it's a fake device, and you should call law enforcement.