The public is being advised to be vigilant when withdrawing money from automated teller machines, or ATMs, in the wake of reports that some ATM machines in the Commonwealth have fallen victim anew to skimming devices.
Some First Hawaiian Bank’s ATMs were reportedly again compromised.
In April last year, FHB was a victim of skimming; the device was found in two of their ATM terminals on Saipan.
In the same month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation apprehended Xiaolin Yang after he was allegedly found in possession of ATM skimming devices. Yang has been deported and is also on supervised release for one year.
FHB vice president and public relations manager Susan Kam Yokoyama, in an email to Saipan Tribune, said they were aware of ongoing police investigation of some ATM skimming devices that were again found on Saipan.
The Department of Public Safety, when asked by Saipan Tribune, said they had already received reports of some ATM machines falling prey to skimmers, according to acting spokesman Jason Tarkong. He said the FBI has more information of the incident.
Yokoyama said FHB management is advising their clients and customers of other financial institutions in the CNMI to remain vigilant and immediately report any incidents. She also assured FHB customers that the alleged skimming incident did not compromise their system.
“We take our customer’s privacy and reports of suspicious activity very seriously. We want to assure our customers that this did not compromise our bank’s systems,” said Yokoyama.
“As a precautionary measure, we are reissuing cards to our customers whose cards may have been compromised at ATMs in the region. Customers can also further protect themselves by contacting their card’s financial institution to change their PIN immediately.”
One of the victims, who declined to be named, learned that his bank account lost more than $320. He said he has already reported the incident to FHB.
“The FHB representative that I talked to on the phone said that the amount was withdrawn in California on Jan. 26. How can I be in California, when all the while I’ve been working and living here on Saipan? It is just crazy,” the victim told Saipan Tribune over the telephone.
He added that a similar incident happened to a brother of his friend where he lost more than $500; it was withdrawn in an ATM in California.
“My friend’s brother is also living and working on Saipan. The last time I used my ATM was when I made a withdrawal at a terminal last week.”
He said he would have to wait for 10 days to get his money back. “Now I have to wait for 10 days before they return my money since FHB is still investigating the incident. I don’t withdraw all the money on my account. I leave some money there that is reserved to pay for our rent.”
Yokoyama assured FHB clients, who become victims of skimming devices that they would get their money back, and advised them to strictly monitor any changes to their accounts and report any untoward incident.
“First Hawaiian Bank customers are not liable for unauthorized transactions on their accounts. Customers are advised to monitor their account statements and to notify their respective financial institution of any unauthorized transactions,” she said.
FHB customers can call the toll-free number of their office in Hawaii at (800-545-6300 or 808-844-4321).
Reps. Ivan A. Blanco (R-Saipan) and Lorenzo I. Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan) has advised the community to be careful in making any transactions in ATM terminals and to also be on the lookout for any suspicious activity by any person using the machine.
“Customers should remain vigilant and report any suspicious activities at our ATMs,” said Blanco, the vice chairman of the Commerce and Tourism committee in the House of Representatives.
Both lawmakers also advised the public to quickly alert and report these incidents to the proper authorities.
“Several instances of skimming occurred recently at some of our banking institutions. I understand our local and federal law enforcement have been alerted to this incident,” added Blanco in a text message to Saipan Tribune.
Deleon Guerrero, in a phone interview, added that DPS should help federal agencies to catch the skimmers. “DPS should go all out to catch these criminals. This is already a cybercrime so FBi is already involved. I just hope our police officers are also trained on how to track down and go after these skimmers.”
“Banks should also put counter measures or use other anti skimming devices on their machines to protect their customers. These kind of incidents would also effect our banking and commerce, since if we can’t stop this customers would rather close their accounts.”