''Gayborhood'' Money Grab

P Street bank confirms ATM suffered ''skimming'' attack

As with most modern cities, some neighborhoods are just a little gayer than others. In D.C.’s case, P Street NW offers many such stretches. Take the blocks between Logan and Dupont Circles, for example – streets don’t get much gayer. So when the ATM at 1447 P St. NW suffers a skimming attack, the local LGBT community has reason to be aware.

Wachovia, a Wells Fargo company, is asking customers of that P Street branch in the heart of one of the District’s de facto gay villages – or anyone who may have used the ATM at the location in recent weeks – to check their account records for fraudulent activity.

”I can confirm that there was a skimming incident at this location that has been discovered and is now being investigated,” says Aimee Worsley, a Wachovia spokesperson. She adds that she cannot discuss the dates on which the ATM was affected because the incident is under investigation.

Skimming usually occurs when a device is placed on an ATM’s card reader to record personal information, including personal identification numbers (PINs), in an effort to steal money.

Wachovia customer James Ranson contacted Metro Weekly in late December to report that he had noticed fraudulent activity on his account. He was suspicious of the P Street ATM upon hearing from friends that they, too, had cash drained from their accounts. The only commonality they could point to was that particular ATM.

”Five of my gay friends, that I know of so far, and myself have, this past week, found unauthorized ATM withdrawals of $500/day against our checking accounts until they were wiped clean,” Ranson wrote in a late-December e-mail to Metro Weekly. ”We are also all customers of the P Street Wachovia and frequently use its outdoor ATM, so that branch seems to be the common link.”

Customers of ATMs in general are asked to use caution upon using the machines. In a Wachovia release warning customers of the dangers of skimming, the company urges caution when using any ATM.

”If you see something different than what is pictured on the screen, or the keypad is unresponsive – please use another ATM. If the ATM appears to be malfunctioning, please do not enter your PIN code. Also, please report your suspicions to the bank or owner listed on the ATM.”

Worsley says those affected by the skimming incident will be fully reimbursed as customers affected by any type of fraud are protected by Wachovia’s “Zero Liability” policy. They are asked to visit Wachovia’s P Street branch, or call the bank’s 24-hour, loss-management number: 800-359-8977.

As of Jan. 4, Wachovia and the Metropolitan Police Department were still investigating the thefts. For updates to this story, visit MetroWeekly.com.

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