'Largest' ID theft ring, trading in Apple products, busted in NY

New York City police have busted what is being called the largest identity theft ring of its kind, indicting 111 people from five criminal operations in Queens, according to published reports.

“This is by far the largest — and certainly among the most sophisticated — identity theft/credit card fraud cases that law enforcement has come across,” Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a release.

Police used court-approved wiretaps in the ethnically diverse area, listening in on conversations in English, Russian, Mandarin, Arabic and other languages to gather evidence, Reuters reported. The five operations ran a $13 million crime ring that mostly sold Apple products overseas.

The thieves used “skimmers” who took retail and restaurant jobs to steal information from customers' credits cards, then programmed the information onto blank cards, the DA’s office said.

They also forged credit cards and printed state driver's licenses to match the credit cards, before using the cards to buy high-end electronics products to be resold overseas, often via the Internet.

The arrests resulted from “Operation Swiper,” a two-year investigation into credit card fraud that also involved physical surveillance and other information gathering in addition to the wiretaps. Eighty-six of those charged have been arrested; police are seeking the other 25.

NYPD Deputy Inspector Gregory Antonsen told Reuters that credit cards in the United States make such an operation easier than it would be in Europe, where credits cards have identifying computer chips in their magnetic strips.

"When you run it through a European credit card machine, the magnetic strip on the back will tell the machine to look for the chip,” Antonsen said. “If it doesn't have the chip, it won't let the credit card to go through and that would have eliminated a lot of this [fraud], absolutely."


About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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Reader Comments

Fri, Oct 14, 2011 fritzdadolt

My ex wife received a phone csll at 9 PM from itunes asking her if she had just ordered 800.00 worth of movies. She replied no and then called her credit card company to cancel her credit card. They also asked if she had just charged the movies and she said no. Her new credit card took 3 weeks to process and arrive. She also had to fill out two forms and mail them back to both companies which she questioned the reason for.

Wed, Oct 12, 2011 SMurphy AZ

Don't make the mistake of thinking that it doesn't cost the consumer when a business writes off the fraud charges! It costs us becuase they use it as justification to raise rates. It will take a law to make it change and then they will still make the costomers pay.

Wed, Oct 12, 2011 walter Washington

Sad to say, but most American companies carry insurance for these sorts of things. As long as it is an insurance thing, the cops could care less. Same with most vendors. Between the insurance company paying and many customers paying out of ignorance, they get their money. The fraud is not enough to cut into the companies bottom line, so they do nothing. A company like VISA does billions in transactions every day. They lose more to accounting errors than they ever do to theft. Changing their cards would also cost money, and they would have to get vendors to replace their card readers. It would cost millions every year, vs possible losses that are hard to document and predict, from theft. It is often an acceptable loss to VISA, or Nextell, or whomever. They don't care if it hurts the little guy, or the small business owner.

Wed, Oct 12, 2011 sumner New York

IN response to 'WOW'. since (thankfully) I never actually paid out my funds, it was the phone companies loss not mind. Without that neither lawyers or the police were interested in filing a report or pursuing anything. I contacted the NYS Attorney General office. They gave me a 3 part form with 'useful' info to collect when your are an ID theft victim (police report, account numbers and amounts, proof of theft) . I contacted NYS DMV with the theive's fake NYS State ID. They had no interest in info. Everyone that supplied info on what to collect made it clear that it was for only my own information. They all responded 'do not send this to us, just keep for your records'. It was a good idea. I later found out he also opened a checking account in my name and bounced two checks totaling $350 at a local food store. At least he ate well while on the phone(s). The $6,500 was a two month phone bill.

Wed, Oct 12, 2011 Joel California

All Credit and Debit card companies should implement a text messaging system that sends you a text message as soon as your card is used. It should state the location, vendor and amount of purchase in the message. WESCOM Credit Union already does this, you would not believe the peace of mind this provides to its customers. And they still don't charge their customers to have a Debit Card! Other financial institutions need to put their part of their money in the best interest of their customers instead of their profit margins!

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