'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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