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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Operation Swiper busts largest identity theft scheme in U.S. history

Who says the economy is struggling?  One identity theft ring that involved more than 100 criminals spent more than $13 million on iPads, iPhones, computers, watches and even swanky handbags from Gucci and Louis Vuitton.  The only problem - they used their victims' credit to make the purchases.

A sixteen month investigation, dubbed "Operation Swiper", led to charges against 111 suspects, 86 of whom have been arrested thus far.  The identity theft ring was run out of Queens, New York but stretched all over the globe, including China, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Employees at banks, restaurants and retail stores would start the identity theft by "skimming" the credit card data of customers (i.e. steal the information when they swiped the card, often by using a special machine to do so).  Members of the ring would also steal credit card information online. 

The information was then used to forge credit cards, which were placed in the hands of criminal shoppers, who would make the high end purchases identified above.  The items bought (but never paid for) would then be sold overseas for pure profit.

The credit card companies in the U.S. could have prevented a lot of this by installing anti-skimming micro chips in their cards.  Credit card companies overseas already install these chips so it must be feasible.  The untold number of identity theft victims I am sure would have appreciated this extra protection, had the credit card companies been wise enough to have implemented it.  Maybe losing out on over $13 million just from one ring will get their attention.

As always, any victims of this identity theft ring that need help can contact me through this blog or via e-mail to ckittell@merkel-cocke.com.  I have represented identity theft victims in NY before and thus know some good FCRA attorneys in NY that may be willing to help.

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