Hermiston Police Department has released photos of a person of interest in the bank account fraud case that has affected a number of Hermiston residents in recent weeks.
The reports started the week of May 8, as customers of multiple banks began noticing that someone had withdrawn hundreds of dollars from their bank account, usually from an ATM in the Portland area. Hermiston Police Chief Jason Edmiston said he didn’t have an exact tally on hand, but he thought the department had taken close to 100 reports by now, totaling thousands of dollars of theft.
He said he knew there were others who had reported the fraud to their bank but not the police department.
The person in the surveillance photos released Thursday is believed to have affixed a “skimmer” to a local ATM. The device looks like an extension of the card reader, but instead intercepts debit and credit card information that thieves can later collect and use to their advantage. Edmiston said it appears in this case the information is being used to manufacture fake debit cards that are then used to withdraw cash from other ATMs.
Police believe the crimes are the work of an organized ring of criminals.
“This is a fairly sophisticated operation, which would lead us to believe it is also fairly organized,” Edmiston said.
He said Hermiston detectives have been exchanging information with other jurisdictions, including Portland and the Tri-Cities, to work together to bust the crime ring, which appears to be hitting cities across in the Northwest.
Richland police recently arrested two people caught stealing card information from a self-pay gasoline pump, but the suspects did not match the description of the suspect in the Hermiston fraud.
Edmiston said if anyone notices a suspicious device on an ATM they should alert the bank or the police. He said the reports of fraud coming in now seem to be from people who did not immediately notice the suspicious activity on their account, but people should still check their bank accounts frequently in case not all of the card numbers collected by the thieves have been used yet.
Anyone with information on the case is asked to call Detective Robert Guerrero at 541-667-5098.