SunTrust finds skimming devices on some Charlotte-area ATMs

SunTrust Banks said it has blocked credit and debit cards of some of its customers after devices designed to steal card information were discovered on some of its automated teller machines in the Charlotte area.

Hugh Suhr, spokesman for the Atlanta-based bank, said in an email Tuesday to the Observer that the skimming devices were discovered on “a few” ATMs. He declined to provide specifics while SunTrust works with authorities to investigate the matter.

SunTrust has blocked a “small number” of cards, Suhr said. He did not say how many customers were affected, how long the devices were on the ATMs or when they were discovered.

Suhr confirmed that one of the devices was found on an ATM at the bank’s 970 S. Cannon Blvd. branch in Kannapolis.

SunTrust is issuing new cards to customers who had used the ATMs when the skimming devices were present, he said. He said whenever SunTrust detects fraudulent activity stemming from a skimming device, the lender reaches out to customers who might be affected, takes steps to protect their accounts and reimburses them for fraudulent transactions tied to the device.

The incident comes at a time of growing concern about the safety of consumer data. In the past year, data breaches affecting major U.S. retailers, including Target and Home Depot, have gained national attention. Neiman Marcus, P.F. Chang’s and Goodwill are other retailers confirming data breaches in the past 12 months.

In addition to retailers, banks are also feeling pressure to prevent consumer data from being stolen and increasing their spending to provide more protections.

Earlier this month, for example, Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan said that the Charlotte-based bank is spending “several hundreds of millions” of dollars on cybersecurity and that he expects expenses in that area to keep rising.

Skimming is not a new tactic used by thieves to steal card data from ATMs. The scam involves a thief installing a skimmer device in an ATM. The device reads account information stored on a payment card when the card is inserted into the machine. Thieves can then use that data to make purchases.

“It's important to note that this is an industry issue, not one unique to our company,” Suhr said. “It highlights why it’s important for people to pay close attention and monitor their accounts no matter where they bank. If someone sees suspicious activity on their account, they should alert their financial institution as soon as they are aware of it.”

SunTrust is the sixth-largest bank in the Charlotte metro area by market share.

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