7 On Your Side: Thieves putting new twist on old deception to empty bank accounts

Nina Pineda Image
Tuesday, June 6, 2023
Thieves putting new twist on old deception to empty bank accounts
"Shoulder surfing" happens when a thief spies over your shoulder while you're banking to steal your all-important PIN.

MID ISLAND, Staten Island (WABC) -- "Shoulder surfing" happens when a thief spies over your shoulder to steal your all-important PIN -- but one Staten Island senior found out that's only where the deception begins.

Nina Lauro is constantly careful with her purse, but believes two women pulled a fast one - first following her inside her bank branch and then looking over her shoulder as she punched in her PIN.

Next came the one-two punch which drained the retired Citibank worker's bank account.

The incident was the first time it was reported on Staten Island, but police say it has been happening all over the city, including seven similar robberies in Brooklyn, five in Queens, one in Manhattan and two in the Bronx.

Lauro said she left the bank and was out on the sidewalk when two women approached her.

"When I walked out of the bank I heard 'miss, miss, miss,' and they were holding a $20 bill and saying something in gibberish," Lauro said. "The other woman says 'change please,' so I say 'oh you want change?' I took out my wallet."

She gave the pair two tens for their $20 and went on with her day. She said she was in Shop Rite 35 minutes later and went to pay her bill but found her card was missing.

Lauro said they took $10,000 in the span of a half hour. They took $1,000 from an ATM at the same branch at 11:28 a.m., $3,800 from a different location at 11:35 a.m., $4,700 from another teller at 12:03 p.m. and $500 from another ATM at 12:10 p.m.

The victim's daughter, Diana Petrosino, shares one of the now-emptied accounts with her mother. She went to the bank and called police, but she said after filing a police report and submitting fraud claims, Citibank gave her back just $500.

"I have the letters of denials that they were not giving me my money back, I'm devastated by all this, I said I'm an ex-employee," Lauro said.

Lauro is now retired but worked at Citibank for 20 years.

7 On Your Side took on her case. Within 24 hours, Lauro said she got a letter from Citibank's executive response team apologizing and offering to refund the claim for $10,000.

"She was excited, she was jumping up and down, she was crying," Petrosino said.

When doing any banking, either at an ATM, at a teller or even on your phone, be aware of anyone around you.

Don't be distracted by someone who says you dropped money or wants change or directions.

A lot of ATMS have a mirror near the screen to see if someone is behind you. Make sure to cover up your hand while punching in your PIN and never share that number.

Banks likely won't cover losses if they believe the customer somehow enabled the fraud.

ALSO READ | 7 On Your Side: Video shows candy kids pulling off newest scam

Two teens selling candy and asking for donations via Venmo or Zelle are accused of draining a victim's bank account in NYC. Nina Pineda has 7 On Your Side.



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