Photo shows an ATM dispensing cash.
Police warn that these crooks aren’t using ski masks or weapons to steal thousands of dollars from women on the Upper East Side | Upper East Site

Women Targeted at UES ATMs by ‘Helpful’ Strangers: NYPD 🆓

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Thieves are targeting Upper East Side women using neighborhood ATMs, and police warn that these crooks aren’t using ski masks or weapons to steal thousands – one young victim exclusively told Upper East Site it was a helpful stranger who nearly drained her bank account.

“I feel a little violated,” Diana, 26, who asked that a pseudonym be used to protect her privacy, said of her experience being victimized by a man she thought was trying to help her with a broken ATM. “I don’t appreciate being swindled that way.”

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It was just after 12:30 pm on May 23rd when Diana walked into the Citi Bank at 1781 First Avenue on the corner of East 92nd Street to make a cash withdrawal.

Photo shows a Citi Bank surrounded by scaffolding poles
Diana, 26, was targeted by a seemingly helpful stranger inside the Citi Bank at 1781 First Avenue on the corner of East 92nd Street | Upper East Site

“I walk in and I put my card into the ATM, but it felt as if the the insert was blocked,” she said. “[A man] came out of nowhere next to me and was telling me that I have to tap in order to to access my account.”

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“And within 10 seconds, he takes the card from my hand, taps it [on the machine], waves it in front of my face and gives the card back to me,” she explained, thinking the older man was simply being animated and fun. 

ALSO READ | UES Woman Loses $44k to Realistic-Looking Scam

“I thought I had my card in my possession, so I took the money out. Not a problem,” Diana said. Later, she received a call from Citi Bank’s fraud department.

Photo shows three Citi Bank ATMS against a royal blue wall
The man tapped Diana’s card against the machine and waved it in front of her face before returning it, she said | Upper East Site

“As I take the card out of my wallet, I noticed that the card in my wallet is not mine. It’s a completely different person’s card,” she said. “So my heart sank.”

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Immediately checking her banking app, she realized $500 had been transferred out, and an additional $1,000 had been shuffled from her checking account to her savings. 

“I was shocked and confused because I literally saw this man wave the card in my face, and it was my card, I never took my eyes off the card,” Diana said. “I think it all came crashing down for me once I checked my bank statement and I’m noticing almost all of my money missing.”

Photo shows a close-up of an ATM machine
Diana didn’t realize she had been victimized until Citi Bank called her, and she found the card in her wallet did not belong to her | Upper East Site

“This distraction in ATMs is something not something that’s new,” Detective Anthony Nuccio, the 19th Precinct’s Crime Prevention Officer, told Upper East Site. “What we’re concerned about is when there’s clusters and specific bank vestibules being targeted, so close by in such a close period of time.”

Diana’s case is not the only incident on the Upper East Side, the detective said. An 80-year-old woman was targeted the afternoon before, in another Citi Bank branch at 1275 Madison Avenue on the corner of East 91st Street. 

In that crime, her debit card got stuck in the machine, and a man in the vestibule pulled it out for her, Detective Nuccio said, adding that she later realized the card the man handed back to her wasn’t hers, and that $6,300 was missing from her account. 

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Photo shows a Citi Bank location on the corner of a street in a beige stone building
An 80-year-old woman had $6,300 stolen after her card was taken in the Citi Bank at 1275 Madison Avenue on the corner of East 91st Street | Google

Though detectives are not certain whether the perpetrators are tampering with the ATMs, the investigation is ongoing, and the crime prevention officer is working with the banks to prevent more thefts. Police have not found either woman’s card, he said, nor have they determined whether the cards they were swapped with belong to other victims.

Last year, a cluster of seven similar thefts on the Upper East Side, with more across the city, saw victims withdrawing cash being distracted by money the perpetrators left on the ground and told them they’d dropped, as Upper East Site reported at the time. When the victims retrieved it, Detective Nuccio said, the thieves would replace their card with another, having watched them input their pin numbers, then go on to steal their money.

A law enforcement source told Upper East Site that the crew behind last year’s crime spree had been identified, but fled back to Europe before they could be apprehended. While the new theft pattern does show similarities, investigators aren’t sure whether they’re connected, the source added.

The suspects are seen in surveillance images wearing surgical masks and hats | NYPD
May’s thefts show similarities to a string of crimes last year, whose perpetrators fled to Europe before they could be arrested | NYPD

“This is happening in broad daylight… during business hours, they’re not afraid to perpetrate this when there’s people out,” Detective Nuccio said. “This can happen to anybody.”

He recommends that Upper East Siders conduct their business with a teller instead of alone at an ATM, and that people take stock of their surroundings when in a bank, to ensure no one gets too close. Having fraud alerts on all of your accounts is also paramount, he said.

ALSO READ | NYPD Rolls Out UES ‘E-Commerce Exchange Zone’ to Prevent Robberies & Scams

Giving a presentation on the pattern at this month’s 19th Precinct Community Council Meeting, he demonstrated how neighbors should use one hand to shield the keypad from view when inputting their pin number. 

Photo shows a policeman demonstrating how to cover your hand as you enter a pin number into an ATM
Detective Nuccio demonstrated how Upper East Siders should cover the ATM keypad as they enter their pin number, and gave other bank safety tips | Nora Wesson/Upper East Site

“Be very cautious in bank vestibules, anyone overly talkative or overly helpful might not necessarily be looking out for your interest,” Detective Nuccio said. “See something suspicious, feel something suspicious, notify the bank and 911 immediately.”

Almost three weeks after being victimized, Diana is struggling to understand what happened to her. 

“I only make so much, so every dollar counts,” she said. “I understand times are tough, we’re all trying to survive, but that’s not the way to do it.”

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