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Three arrested in connection with ATM fraud ring

A law enforcement task force that includes both local and national jurisdictions arrested three suspects Saturday as part of an ATM fraud ring that has resulted in more than $400,000 in losses on the Eastside.

The three suspects were alleged to have used skimming devices that read and record bank customers' PINs when they use ATMs.

"They'll put a tool that goes onto the ATM that really isn't recognizable," said Bellevue Police spokeswoman Carla Iafrate. "It's a piece that fits over the spot where you slide your card. Every time you slide your card through and punch in a PIN it gets recorded to the skimming device, and they can get your information to make transactions."

Members of the joint task force - which includes the U.S. Secret Service Electronic Crimes Taskforce, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, King County Sheriff's Office, Seattle Police Department, Bellevue Police Department, Kirkland Police Department, and Lynnwood Police Department - monitored suspects at ATMs.

A first suspect was arrested following a Nov. 4 skimming incident in Newcastle. Two other suspects were observed placing a skimming device on an ATM in Puyallup. Police later stopped the suspects' vehicle in Renton and took them into custody.

The arrests are part of a larger regional investigation into skimming, which according to the Bellevue Police Department, has led to losses of more than $400,000 on the Eastside alone.

The suspects are being held on $250,000 bail at King County Jail. Two vehicles involved in the activity are being held as evidence at the Bellevue Police Department.

The joint investigation has been going on for several months, Iafrate said, and the arrests of the suspects over the weekend represent the culmination of a two-month investigation. Iafrate said the fraud ring extends beyond the suspects arrested this week.

"This is certainly a step in the right direction and puts a dent in illegal skimming of ATM cards," said Bellevue Deputy Police Chief Cherie Baker. "The coordinated efforts of this operation with all the officers and agents involved should be commended."

The best way to prevent skimming of one's money is to remain vigilant, Iafrate said. Using ATMs inside banks cuts down on the potential to be scammed. She advised ATM customers to keep their eyes open and make sure they aren't being watched. Most of all, people should trust their instincts.

"If it looks unusual or you have a gut feeling it's unusual, don't use that ATM," Iafrate said.

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