The federal government has slammed the virtual doors on 36 websites allegedly participating in illegal behavior. Their crime? Selling and distributing stolen credit card numbers in an extremely brazen manner that included videos cheerily offering up consumers’ identities.
In a coordinated effort between the FBI, the U.S. Department of Justice and numerous national and international authorities, the aptly named “Operation Wreaking hAVoC” sought to track down Automated Vending Cart sites, or AVCs. An AVC is an e-commerce platform that facilitates the purchasing of stolen credit card numbers. After an investigation coordinated with international law enforcement, 36 website domains were seized, and visitors to these sites are met with a banner informing them of the seizure.
Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer said the websites brought down by the operation were fueling others like it.
“The websites we are targeting today were commercial outlets for stolen credit card information,” Breuer said in a press release. “By making this information available on the Internet, these websites facilitated fraud on credit card holders around the world. The actions announced today are the result of extraordinary coordination with our international law enforcement partners, and reflect our commitment to use every tool at our disposal to shut down fraudulent, criminal enterprises.”
According to the United Kingdom’s Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) there has been an increase in criminals using e-commerce platforms for the illegal sale of stolen information over the past 18 months. After investigations, SOCA made two arrests of men suspected to have made large-scale purchases from sites similar to the ones seized.
“Countless lives are thrown into financial turmoil because of these websites,” U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride said in the release. “With a few simple clicks, thousands of stolen credit card numbers can be bought or sold to fraudsters anywhere in the world. Today’s seizures are part of an ongoing campaign to disrupt this online market regardless of where it operates.”
During the investigation, law enforcement officials were able to prove the fraudulency of the seized sites by making purchases of credit card numbers issued by banks such as Bank of America and Capital One. They then confirmed with these banks that the sites were not authorized to distribute that information.
“By seizing the websites the criminal underground uses to blatantly sell stolen personal information, Operation Wreaking hAVoC shows that we are committed to protecting individuals online and preventing criminals from using the Internet to line their pockets,” FBI Acting Executive Assistant Director Kevin Perkins said. “The FBI and our partners around the world are committed to disabling these criminal networks. No single law enforcement agency can fight cybercrime on its own, and the FBI is proud to be a part of such an outstanding effort by all of the participating agencies.”