In what is being touted at the biggest identity theft bust in U.S. history, more than 100 individuals, including bank tellers, retail works and waiters, have been indicted in a scheme that netted more than $13 million in less than a year-and-a-half, according to Computerworld.
Dubbed “Operation Swiper,” the two year investigation targeted five groups of criminals in Queens, NY, who were tied to larger syndicates in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and eastern Asia, reports Reuters. The groups engaged in a variety of activities designed to steal credit card numbers. The Queens County District Attorney’s Office:
Many of the defendants charged … are accused of going on nationwide shopping sprees, staying at five-star hotels, renting luxury automobiles and private jets, and purchasing tens of thousands of dollars worth of high-end electronics.
So Far, 86 individuals are in custody as police look for the remaining 25. According to The Wall Street Journal, they face a number of charges, including corruption, identity theft, grand larceny and possession of a forged instrument.
The bust comes as the FBI and Secret Service warn that cybercrime is becoming easier to commit due to the ease of recruiting via online forums and the low overhead, notes Computerworld. Officials say criminals are starting to forego targets like financial institutions in favor of sectors like retail and hospitality. As Pablo Martinez, deputy special agent in charge at the U.S. Secret Service, explains:
Why hack into Citibank and steal 10 million pieces of information when you could hack into restaurants and get the same information and not have a big target, a bulls-eye, on your back?