A California man won’t be home for Christmas. He’ll be spending the next five Holiday Seasons in a Nevada State Prison.

Khachatur Zakaryan, 37, was sentenced Thursday in a Las Vegas federal court. When his five-years behind bars is done, he still faces three years of supervised probation.

When Zakaryan was arrested in 2017, he had in his possession over 500 fraudulent credit and debit cards. Zakaryan used them to steal cash from legitimate accounts. Each fraudulent card could generate between $2,000 and $4,000 ill-gotten gain.

When LVPD searched Zakaryan’s van and hotel room, they found the cards and they recognized Zakaryan. He was not a strange to the crime — or to the cops. When Zakaryan was arrested, he was on probation in a similar case.

Before sentencing, Zakaryan pleaded guilty to four counts of producing, using or trafficking in a counterfeit access device — or ‘skimmer’ — and aggravated identity theft.

Protect Against ATM Skimming

A skimmer is a device which compromises an ATM. The gadget, disguised to look like part of the ATM, saves the users’ card number and pin code. The information is then saved as a counterfeit copy for the thief.

Crooks need two things to make the scheme work: your card’s magnetic strip data and your PIN. To catch the data, the skimming device is normally positioned where the card is inserted. To get the PIN, a small camera is hidden nearby and often looks like part of the ATM as well.

7 Tips

Make sure the financial institution you are using has your current contact information.

Set up online banking.

Check your account often and set up balance alerts.

Tell your bank before you leave town so travel alerts on your account can be established.

If you can’t use an ATM you already know, find a well-lit machine in an area with plenty of security cameras and lots of foot traffic.

Check the machine to see if it looks different from the last time you used it. Grasp the card reader and give it a tug. If something wiggles, don’t use the machine.

Protect the PIN by covering your hand as your enter the numbers.

Even if you’ve done everything right, ATM fraud may still happen. Double check your account and if you find unauthorized transactions contact your financial group immediately.

The Takeaway

Nicholas Wooldridge, a Las Vegas defense lawyer, points out that crooks may only use stolen cards occasionally to minimize the odds that the bank will detect strange transactions. It’s vital to keep an eye out for something on your statement that appears unlikely — or impossible.

“If you don’t already use online banking, it’s worth thinking about. Being able to access and search through your statements helps to spot these transactions and allow you to report them much sooner,” said Wooldridge.