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Vestavia Hills Police seeing a spike in financial crime, scams

Published: Apr. 28, 2022 at 6:57 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 28, 2022 at 7:02 PM CDT
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VESTAVIA HILLS, Ala. (WBRC) - Financial or virtual crimes are on the rise all across the country, but some cases are occurring just outside Birmingham. That includes in Vestavia Hills, where an ATM outside of the Publix in Liberty Park was recently targeted. Several had their banking information stolen, and while the ATM issue has since been resolved, it’s still a case that reminds the public how easy it is to have your information stolen.

Criminals used a device known as a “skimmer” to lift community members’ banking information, and Vestavia Hills Police stress they are more common than you’d think.

“Anywhere where people are in a hurry to get in and out. They don’t really look at it, they will put them on these devices. They will leave them there for a period of time. They will come back and collect them, they will mine the data off of it, and then they will use the data,” said Vestavia Hills Police Lieutenant Michael Keller.

He stresses that crimes similar to this have only increased in frequency here of late.

“It’s been on the rise now for a number of years, and it’s one of the more predominant crimes we have to deal with,” said Keller.

This is exactly why Alex Derencz of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is preaching caution.

“It doesn’t matter where you live, how much money you make, how old you are, you need to know the signs and red flags of fraud, because at the end of the day, scammers are going to pull every string they can to try and get money from folks,” said Derencz.

Something that makes these cases difficult, is often times the scammers or thieves will be located in other states, leaving local law enforcement with few options.

“It is frustrating for us because people come to us for help and we like to be able to help them, and unfortunately with this situation, sometimes all we can do is try and give them advice on what they need to do to keep this from happening in the future,” Keller.

He also says you can protect yourself by limiting debit card usage, only purchasing from secure sites online, and by checking ATMs or gas scanners prior to using them.

Those at the BBB are preaching if an opportunity is too good to be true in your inbox, it most likely is.

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