June 29, 2010
Major Online Credit Card Theft Scam Busted, Pt.3
Unsuspecting money mules.
Now that the thieves had the companies and employees in place, they had to do business with the credit card processing companies. They had to get around the fraud protection services hence one reason for making the credit card transactions $9 or less. When logging on to the payment processing company's website, the thieves used computers with IP addresses that were geographically near the address of their virtual offices. First Data, one of the nation's largest payment processors was one of the most frequently used by the thieves. The thieves use First Data to process credit card payments under the names of 110 fake merchant accounts. Totally, the FTC uncovered 116 fake merchant accounts..
In addition to First Data, the thieves also used Elavon, a major credit card payment processor. Elavon is a subsidiary of U.S. Bancorp and offers merchant processing in more than 30 countries. Elavon is the 4th largest U.S. credit card processor and one of the top 6 in Europe. Unsuspecting money mules were used to transfer the money out of the U.S. The thieves recruited Americans as their money mules through spam emails and other online tactics. They were told the job entailed helping offshore business. The money mules were instructed to set up bank accounts which they used to transfer the money.
The FTC filed a civil lawsuit in a U.S. District Court in Illinois where they were given the authority to freeze the ring's U.S. assets, shut down the bogus merchant companies, and the activities of 14 money mules. It means the ring will no longer be able to process the stolen credit card numbers nor will they have access to the bogus companies that were used in their money making scheme. The FTC said the thieves had set up 100 fake companies that they used to process card transactions. Although the names of the ring's masterminds have not yet been identified, the FTC is confident that eventually they will be caught as the agency aggressively seeks their capture.