FBI announces "largest coordinated action directed at credit card crime"
The Federal Bureau of Investigation says that it has successfully carried out the largest operation against credit card criminals in history. In its press release, the New York Field Office of the FBI said that 24 suspects were arrested in a coordinated action across 13 countries, including the United Kingdom and Germany. The statement notes that the hacking group tried to obtain data from more than 411,000 credit and debit cards. "The FBI has prevented estimated potential economic losses of more than $205 million" (£131 million), said the agency, calling it the "largest coordinated international law enforcement action" against illegal data traders in history.
The operation is said to have involved more than 30 search warrants and was the result of a two-year undercover investigation led by the FBI. In the UK, US investigators cooperated with law enforcement agencies including the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) and Thames Valley Police; in Germany, they worked with the country's Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt, BKA). Six individuals from the UK and a German citizen were among those arrested.
The individuals who were arrested in the US are all around 20 years of age, though two unnamed minors were also arrested by the investigators in California. All of the suspects tried to use stolen credit cards, or phished card data, to raid their victims' bank accounts. To this end, they allegedly traded stolen account and credit card data with other group members. As the suspects used internet forums to communicate with each other, the FBI established an undercover forum where credit card criminals, also referred to as "carders", could trade stolen data.
"As the cyber threat grows more international, the response must be increasingly global and forceful", said Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara. "The coordinated law enforcement actions taken by an unprecedented number of countries around the world today demonstrate that hackers and fraudsters cannot count on being able to prowl the Internet in anonymity and with impunity, even across national boundaries", explained Bharara, adding that "clever computer criminals operating behind the supposed veil of the internet are still subject to the long arm of the law."