Trivalent in the News: $5K Reward in Lake Michigan CU Fraud Case (WOOD TV8)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A skimmer was used in the fraud scheme that stole money from scores of Lake Michigan Credit Union accounts earlier this month, a source close to the investigation told 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday.

The source also said the fraud may be connected to other crimes across state lines.

The FBI and state authorities are investigating the LMCU fraud from the weekend of Jan. 20, which affected about 100 customers. Some people said thousands of dollars were stolen from their accounts. The money was later restored by the bank, which also issued new debit cards to customers with compromised accounts.

On Tuesday, LMCU provided 24 Hour News 8 with surveillance photos from ATMs on S. Division Avenue and at the Medical Mile showing persons of interest in the fraud case.

A $5,000 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest. Anyone with a tip can call MSP’s fraud hotline at 1.800.409.7621 or submit their tip online.


Skimmers are electronic devices hidden inside legitimate credit or debit card readers that steal your information so thieves can make charges to your account. They have previously been found in pumps at West Michigan gas stations.

“With the advent of 3-D printers today, you can pretty much manufacture anything that you can create on a computer. So getting the dimensions of an ATM card slot is not too difficult to do, and then you can 3-D print very easily a skimmer that can go over the card slot,” Mark Spaak, vCIO and senior engineer at West Michigan IT provider Trivalent Group, explained to 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday.

Spaak, who also spent 10 years in the banking industry, said the skimming tactic isn’t new, but hackers are always finding new ways to steal your information.

“When you swipe that card, we’re capturing the card data. Not only is the ATM getting it, but also the card skimmer’s reading that magnetic stripe and it’s collecting that information. Well, that’s just half of the equation. The other half of the equation is the pin,” Spaak said. “Some of them will use an overlay that will actually go over the number keyboard.”

He said some scammers even set up hidden cameras to capture you entering your pin.

And then there’s a new approach: jackpotting.

“Essentially … you’re actually feeding a cable into that ATM and plugging that cable in. That allows you to get system access,” Spaak explained.

That can allow hackers to then reprogram the entire system and force it to spit out cash.

Spaak says hackers will buy and use decommissioned ATMS to train on.

So how can you protect yourself?

“Is maybe just to grab that piece where you would normally stick your card in (and see) can I pull it off, can I remove it, does it move? That’s a good indication that potentially that the ATM has been compromised,” Spaak said.