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CBS 2 Investigation: Thieves Could Be Skimming Your Bank Account

Local Teacher Says He Was Refused Refund; Accused Of Being In On Scam
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NEW YORK (CBS 2) — Imagine thieves draining your bank account, and the bank accusing you of being in on the heist.

As CBS 2’s Tamara Leitner reported Wednesday, crooks are making off with a lot of cash in such scams — and you may not be protected.

Yonkers Public Schools science teacher Dean Saghafi said he was victimized.

“I noticed all of these withdrawals that I never did, and I was shocked,” he said.

Saghafi said nearly $6,000 was missing from his Citibank account.

“It was a lot of money,” he said. “Being a high school teacher, it’s almost half of my summer money.”

Bank records showed withdrawals — $200 a pop — from ATMs in Brooklyn and Queens.

There were three separate ATM withdrawals made on July 30 at 10:26 p.m. at one ATM, but Saghafi said there was no way it could have been him, and that is because he said he was at Lincoln Square taking a jazz class.

But Citibank refused to refund Saghafi’s money, and accused him of being in on the scheme.

“I was shocked. I actually felt quite violated,” he said. “I expected them to take care of their customer instead of accusing them of illegal activity.”

So if he didn’t do it, who did?

“It’s actually very easy,” said security expert Dave Boehm.

Boehm said Saghafi was likely a victim of skimming. Thieves attach a tiny device to steal credit card and ATM numbers.

The gadgets can be hidden on ATMs, gas pumps and at supermarket checkouts. And they are not easy to spot.

Doug Johnson of the American Bankers Association admitted the payoff for the crooks is huge.

“We recognize it as a threat,” he said.

A typical bank hold-up usually nets $3,000 to $5,000, but Johnson said a single card skim can rake in 10 times that amount — up to $50,000.

“Video surveillance is incredibly important in not only detecting the device, but identifying the criminal,” Johnson said.

And that brings us back to Saghafi.

“All they have to do is go to the videotape and they won’t see me,” he said.

But Citibank did not look at the videotape. The bank said in a statement, “We do not routinely use ATM video in our research.”

“I’m very upset,” Saghafi said. “I feel doubly violated because my bank didn’t back me up.”

In the end, Saghafi said he appealed to the bank four times, filed a police report, and even called the district attorney’s office, but CitiBank still rejected his appeals.

But nearly three nearly weeks later the bank suddenly refunded his money without explanation.

Citibank told CBS 2, “We want our customers to know that … they are not liable for any unauthorized use of their accounts.”

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