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2 Investigators: Debit-Card Holders Duped Into Giving Out PIN Numbers

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(CBS) – They call it “crackin’ cards” — as in, cracking into debit card accounts with a new scam that’s costing banks millions of dollars and leaving card owners who fall for it on the hook to pay back thousands of dollars.

2 Investigator Pam Zekman has learned that the con men plying this trade use social media to solicit business from all across the country.

The perpetrators of this scam are bold. They post rap songs on YouTube bragging about the amount of money they’ve stolen, they post pictures and solicitations on Craigslist, Instagram and Facebook saying they can make you thousands of dollars – fast.

All you have to do is give them your debit card and “PIN” number.

Typically, once they get your debit card and pin number, they deposit a fake check in your account, then use the debit card to quickly withdraw money before the banks catch up to the scheme.   

One woman who was scammed described the come-on: “He would put $4,500 into my account through the ATM. He wanted $2,000 out of the deal.”

She was told she would get all that was left. But, after he deposited a fake check for $2,800 in her account at Fifth Third Bank, the con man used her debit card to withdraw the money and disappear. Now, she’s in trouble with the bank.

“I owe the bank the money that was withdrawn from my account,”  says the victim, who asked that her name not be used.

U.S. Postal Inspectors are investigating.

“The scheme is huge. There’s been thousands of people that have provided their ATM and debit cards, and financial institutions have lost millions of dollars,” says Vic Demtschenko, assistant inspector in charge of the Chicago regional office.

College students are frequent targets, prompting the police chief at Northern Illinois University to send a warning letter to students that if they knowingly participate it is bank fraud.

“The students are actually being victimized and coerced into committing crimes with them, without even realizing they’re doing it,” Thomas Phillips says.

So, why are the hustlers targeting college age people?

“They have to pay tuition, buy books and other expenses associated with going to school, so they’re prime targets in need of money,” he says.

The victim who talked with CBS 2 can’t get a bank account, but she can still see images of the man who lured her into the scheme on Instagram, waving wads of cash that might very well include her money.

“They’re taking advantage of innocent people — people that they know that are in tough situations,” she says.

Fifth Third Bank says this is a fraud scheme that all banks are dealing with, and it continues to work on security programs to help customers navigate through scams like this.

Both bank and law enforcement officials say if someone offers you money to use your debit card and PIN number, don’t do it.

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