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International card theft targets U.S. consumers

Cardholders were hit with small, hard-to-notice charges

By Chris Friedrich

More than a million American consumer card accounts were compromised in an international credit card scam.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a number of court requests in an attempt to shut down an international credit and debit card scam that involved around 1.3 million U.S. consumers. The Commission reports the total amount of false charges processed by the thieves was close to $10 million over approximately a four-year period.

The scam involved charging small amounts on consumers' credit and debit cards, ranging from 20 cents to no more than $10, processed by more than 100 fake merchant accounts set up to resemble genuine companies.

"It's easier to steal one $1 from one million people than $1 million from one person," stated the FTC in a June 28 press release about the thefts.

The money was collected by more than 16 dummy corporations the ring had set up in various Eastern European and Central Asian countries.

Although more than 1,000 consumers filed complaints with the FTC, which initiated the nine-month investigation, the majority of consumers took limited action in regards to their loss. The FTC speculates that because the amount of money was so small, consumers either failed to notice or simply didn't bother to address the problem.

The identities of the overseas individuals who masterminded the scam are still not clear. It is also unclear exactly how they managed to acquire consumers' debit or credit card numbers. FTC staff attorney Steven Wernikoff stated that during the course of the investigation, there was no discernable pattern between the type of card being abused and the scam.

Here is a list of some of the merchants whose name appeared on victims' billing statements that have been identified in the case:

Fake merchants steal millions
ACM Eureka MARX Site Services
Adele Services Extra Path Mera Source Limited
Advanced Global Tech Form Limited MFG Standard Six
AEI Foto Fast Name Services SYS INC
Albion Group Gamma NETT System Development
Alpha Cell GFDL New Eight Terra
ALS GLOBO Office Development THQ
ALS LLC Green Stone Office Services TIMO
BEI Harry Dean OM Extra TLC Inc.
BIT HBS ONE Union Green
BusinessWorks Home Port Online Group United Services
Center Company Homebase Prc Services VIVOS
Centr Limited ICH Services Presi WELLE
Centrum Group IHS Rasna Will Services
CFM Image Company RSIPartners World Trade
CFR Images Services RSS Inc. World Wide Services
COS IPS Safeworks YES
Data Services ISSO Search Company  
Den Enterprises IVA Search Group  
Dgen Lang Group Search Management  
Digest Limited Light Flow Search Services  
Don Partners Link Group SFR  
DwellTech Link Services Sigma  
Edge List Services Site Group  
ESTA Mark Silver Site Management  

See related: 10 things you should know about identity theft, Nearly 100 charged worldwide in massive phishing scam bust, Haiti disaster brings out charity scams

Published: July 1, 2010



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