Beware: The Shoulder Surfer! NR14409pv

October 30, 2014

Panorama City:  Detectives have released a photograph of a man who is suspected of accessing a Bank of America customer’s ATM account after the patron walked away from the machine, and police are warning the public to protect your ATM PIN.

“It’s called ‘shoulder surfing,’ and it happens more often than you think,” said Lt. Paul Vernon, commanding officer of the Mission Detective Division.  “It’s a way for a crook to get into your ATM account without your ATM card.”

Pictures from the ATM camera show a second man in line hovering over a bank patron’s shoulder as the patron inserts his card and enters his PIN.  When the patron walks away with the ATM transaction still active, the suspect quickly steps up, and makes another transaction, withdrawing $500.

The bank patron suspected the man’s rush to the ATM was odd, so he got back in line to re-access the ATM. The suspect got suspicious and asked the victim why he got back in line. The victim then re-accessed his account and discovered the fraudulent transaction.  At that point the suspect left the area.

Police warn that all users of ATMs, which is just about everyone, should protect their PIN by covering the PIN entry with their second hand.  “Shoulder surfing can happen any place where debit keypads are used to enter PINs, like at convenience stores,” Lt. Vernon explained.  “I’ve seen situations where disreputable employees have installed cameras over keypads to capture PIN keystrokes at transactions.”

The shoulder surfer in this case chose his victim at the Bank of American at 8324 Van Nuys Boulevard, on September 1.  The suspect was a male Black, in his 30s, standing at 5 feet 11 inches tall, with a medium build.  Anyone who knows him personally should easily recognize him from the photo.

Anyone with information on this crime is urged to call Det. Janette McChesney, Mission Burglary detectives, at (818) 838-9977. During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7 (877-527-3247).  Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477).  Tipsters may also contact Crime Stoppers by texting to phone number 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S on most keypads) with a cell phone.  All text messages should begin with the letters “LAPD.”  Tipsters may also go to, click on “webtips” and follow the prompts.