Identity Thieves Organizing

7 Apr ’05

The WSJ (paid sub required) reports today on the increasing organization and sophistication of identity theft and underground markets in the sale of stolen information. Chilling quote of the day:

Recent investigations of online identity-theft rings show a disturbing pattern emerging, law-enforcement officials say. Large groups of criminals are banding together to steal financial data from individuals, and then trade or sell that data on underground Internet sites.

One such case involves Shadowcrew, an online marketplace for stolen credit-card and debit-card information that U.S. agents shut down. The Web site, with some 4,000 members, served as the backbone of an extensive criminal organization that traded at least 1.5 million stolen credit-card numbers and caused total losses in excess of $4 million, according to an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Newark, N.J., in October.

The indictment names 19 individuals for their roles in running what the Department of Justice calls one of the largest online centers for trafficking stolen identity information, documents and banking details.

As public concern mounts about identity theft, police busts in the U.S., Europe and Latin America are shedding light on the increasing sophistication of the criminals behind such schemes. They are finding well-run, hierarchical organizations where members coordinate efforts via the Internet, often using aliases.

Once stolen, the information is advertised and sold on Web sites and Internet chat rooms specializing in the trafficking of such valuable data.

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