City Attorney Mike Feuer Issues Crime Alert Against Emerging Trend of 'Shoulder Surfing' ATM Theft

February 25, 2016

LOS ANGELES – City Attorney Mike Feuer, joined by representatives of the Los Angeles Police Department Commercial Crimes Division, issued a public alert regarding an emerging crime trend at ATMs known as “shoulder surfing.” Feuer announced the filing of two criminal cases against individuals allegedly engaged in “shoulder surfing” in the San Fernando Valley.  

 

“My office will continue to work closely with law enforcement to crack down on shoulder surfing at ATMs and other forms of identity theft," said Feuer. "And we will empower residents with key tips so they can avoid being victimized in the first place." 
 

Law enforcement officials and banks have identified “shoulder surfing” as a type of theft on the rise at ATMs across the country. Thieves tend to loiter in an area near an ATM and wait for a customer to enter their personal PIN. Once a victim has finished their banking transaction, the thief immediately approaches the ATM before the system can log out in order to re-enter the victim’s PIN in order to withdraw cash. 


The City Attorney has advised the public on steps they can take in order to avoid being a victim of ‘shoulder surfing’ theft including:
 

•    Pay attention to your surroundings.
•    Look for skimmers or other devices attached to ATMs or other card readers
•    Shield your PIN  when entering
•    Wait until your ATM transaction is fully logged out
•    Report all ATM or identity theft fraud to the LAPD

 

In a continued effort to crack down on this type of theft, the City Attorney has filed a criminal case against two individuals allegedly involved in ‘shoulder surfing’ activity. Defendant Lynell Anthony Peterson, 20, was charged with two counts of identity theft and two counts of petty theft, and one count of driving on a suspended license on February 18, 2016. A bench warrant was issued and bail was set at $50,000. If convicted, Peterson could face up to three years and six months in jail and $5,000 in fines. Peterson’s companion Seth Arnold, 24, was also charged with one criminal count for acting as a lookout when the criminal activity was being committed. 


On January 8, 2016, the suspects were allegedly observed loitering around an ATM at the Tarzana branch of Bank of America where two separate victims were alerted to unauthorized transactions in the amounts of $200 and $500 shortly after using the ATM. While responding LAPD officers were taking a report from the bank manager, they heard a broadcast reporting suspicious activity at the Bank of America in Woodland Hills. The description given of the suspects and their vehicle was similar for both incidents. Officers observed the defendants in a parking lot in the vicinity of the Tarzana Bank of America and they were arrested. 
 

LAPD Commercial Crimes Division completed an additional investigation which included reviewing the ATM security videos which allegedly showed Peterson approaching the ATMs after each victim had used the machine while Arnold loitered in the area. 


Deputy City Attorney Maureen Rodriguez of the City Attorney’s Consumer Protection Unit is prosecuting the case.
 

ATM Safety Tips in English and in Spanish.

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The Office of Mike Feuer

Los Angeles City Attorney

James K. Hahn City Hall East, Suite 800

Los Angeles, CA 90012 | 213-978-8100