Credit card criminals arrested after multimillion-dollar theft - Update
A credit card fraud ring is believed to have stolen a total of $45 million (€34 million) worldwide. Now, the police have at least caught the members of the ring's New York cell. Investigators say that the criminals found a way of increasing a card's credit limit, which apparently enabled them to withdraw large amounts of cash in a short period of time.
New York federal prosecutor Loretta Lynch spoke of "a massive 21st century bank heist that reached across the internet and stretched around the globe." Adding: "In the place of guns and masks, this cyber crime organisation used laptops and the internet."
Seven men have been arrested; they formed the New York cell of a criminal organisation that operates on an international level. The suspects are all from Yonkers in the US state of New York. The first arrest was made on 27 March, while the last two suspects were arrested earlier this week. An eighth suspect was murdered in the Dominican Republic only a few days before the operation.
The New York cell alone is believed to have netted $2.8 million within only a few hours – using several hundred ATMs in the New York borough of Manhattan. "The organisation worked its way from the computer systems of international corporations to the streets of New York City," Lynch explained.
According to the US Department of Justice, the criminals used sophisticated methods to intrude into the computer systems of global financial institutions. They harvested prepaid credit card data and manipulated these cards' ATM withdrawal limits.
Investigators say that the criminals struck twice. In December 2012, they targeted prepaid MasterCard debit cards issued by the National Bank of Ras Al Khaimah PSC (RAKBANK) in the United Arab Emirates. After manipulating the card data, the criminals made 4,500 withdrawals at ATMs in around 20 countries. The second attack targeted prepaid MasterCard debit cards issued by the Bank of Muscat of Oman. The investigators say that in this case, 36,000 withdrawals were made in 24 countries.
The US Secret Service, which is governed by the US Department of Homeland Security, was involved in the strike against the New York cell. A Secret Service official said that new technologies and the rapid growth in internet usage had eroded the previous limits of financial crime. However, the busting of the cell had shown that investigators have now adapted accordingly, he added.
Update 10-05-13 14:55: In a press release, the Attorney's Office of the Eastern District of New York has revealed further details of the fraud. The men allegedly broke into the systems of two payment processing companies to steal credit card information and circumvent the drawing limits. The stolen data was written to dummy swipe cards that were used to withdraw the money. The heist operations were apparently highly coordinated: in the second attack, the group withdrew approximately $40 million in 24 countries within the space of ten hours. To accomplish this, the group made over 36,000 different transactions.