Police in Berkeley are warning residents of a crime trend in which scammers stake out ATMs and gain access to debit and credit cards.
This year, thieves have accessed Bank of America accounts in approximately 23 individual cases by staking out the machines and pouncing on them when community members forget to retrieve their cards before walking away, police said Wednesday.
As soon as the customer walks away, the suspect can access the customer's account and make withdrawals -- stealing an average of $400 in each case, plus any additional charges that can be made prior to the customer's cancellation of the account, police said.
The suspects often sit in a car, feign talking on the phone, or panhandle in front of the ATMs while watching vulnerable customers.
Berkeley police detectives have been working with Bank of America representatives to address this trend, and management has responded by increasing the volume of beeping alerts on the machines that remind customers to retrieve their cards.
Bank management is also in the process of hiring security personnel for the branches, police said.
Police are asking for the community's help in reducing these crimes by being vigilant when making ATM transactions, developing a method to remember to take the card before walking away, and alerting others immediately if someone forgets a card.
Two men have been arrested in connection with the thefts. Nau Macminh, 48, was arrested for crimes allegedly committed at the Telegraph and Durant avenues branch. Jason Miller, 41, was arrested at the north Shattuck Avenue branch.
Detectives are searching for other suspects they believe are engaged in the same criminal activity and are encouraging community members to call the police non-emergency line at (510) 981-5900.
Crimes in progress should be reported using 911, or (510) 981-5911 from a cell phone.