LIVERMORE -- A string of thefts at a Bank of America branch in Livermore has police reminding customers to complete all steps of their banking transaction before walking away from an ATM.

An ATM prompt unique to Bank of America allows thieves to approach the kiosk and access customers' accounts if they have not completed every step of their transaction before leaving the machine, police said. After customers make a transaction at certain Bank of America ATMs, the machine will ask one final time if the user would like to make any more withdrawals or transfers, and prompts the users to press "Yes" or "No". However, bank patrons often just take their money and walk away.

Livermore police say thieves watch for customers who overlook the final step, then rush to the machine to select "Yes" for another withdrawal.

"It's happened at least twice within a week," said Lt. Ava Garavatti, who notes that while two thefts have been confirmed, several more have been reported. "BofA corporate said these acts are consistent with a new trend."

Garavatti says the Bank of America customers used the ATM at the 1748 Railroad Ave. branch to make a small withdrawal and later discovered the maximum amount had been withdrawn moments later. Police believe the customers walked away from the ATM with their card and cash in hand, leaving a window for the thieves to approach the kiosk and make withdrawals of their own.


Advertisement

"When the victims walk away, they press 'Yes' and steal money from the account," said Garavatti, who notes that the machines are unique in that they give a customer's card back before closing out a transaction.

"There is a reason why they're hanging out at this particular branch, but I can't say for sure," Garavatti said.

At this particular branch, a customer feeds their card into the ATM machine, which then returns the card to the individual before even asking for a pin number. As a result, the credit or debit card is in the customer's hand during the entire transaction.

A Bank of America spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment.

Police have identified two San Francisco men that may be responsible for the thefts, and Garavatti said the men were questioned after a bank employee noticed them loitering around the machines Tuesday about 11 a.m. Livermore police arrived shortly afterward to talk to the men and remained on scene into the afternoon while they reached out to victims from previous thefts to confirm they had seen the men lurking around the bank before.

According to Garavatti, the men were released from the scene pending further investigation. Police will be reviewing Bank of America surveillance tapes in an effort to connect the suspects to the string of crimes.

Anyone with information about the thefts may contact Livermore police at 925-371-4900. The investigation is ongoing.

Contact Erin Ivie at eivie@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/erin_ivie.