38 suspects have been charged with crimes involving the theft of names, Social Security identification numbers, credit card information and other personal data from U.S. Internet users and financial institutions.
The U.S. government has found incriminating evidence to support the indictment of members of a global crime ring for illegally collecting personal data from trusting Internet users. More than half of those charged are Romanian while the scams were also managed from the United States, Canada, Portugal and Pakistan. Two Romanians involved in both schemes linked the cases.
The scam, known as “phishing,” involves obtaining information through fraudulent e-mails that direct Internet users to fake websites that seem legitimate and ask for personal information. The e-mails may also include attachments to install "spyware" that can capture personal data that is sent to third parties over the Internet.
The latest offenses indicate the growing threat of organized crime groups committing crimes over the Internet.
"International organized crime poses a serious threat not only to the United States and Romania but to all nations," Deputy Attorney General Mark R. Filip said in a statement from Bucharest, where the charges were announced. "Criminals who exploit the power and convenience of the Internet do not recognize national borders; therefore our efforts to prevent their attacks cannot end at our borders either."
Racketeering, bank fraud and identity theft are among the charges against 33 people in Los Angeles. Prosecutors believe the Romanian con artists gathered thousands of credit and debit card account numbers and other personal information from people who responded to the spam e-mail. The collected data were then routed to the United States for encoding on magnetic cards that could be used to withdraw money from bank accounts.
By Kathleen Clark
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