Tag Archives: New Jersey

The Big Ring

Good piece today by my WSJ colleague Cassell Bryan-Low on the Douglas Havard case which I mentioned a week or so back: As Identity Theft Moves Online, Crime Rings Mimic Big Business (subscription only, I suspect):

Most identity theft still occurs offline, through stolen cards or rings of rogue waiters and shop clerks in cahoots with credit-card forgers. But as Carderplanet shows, the Web offers criminals more efficient tools to harvest personal data and to communicate easily with large groups on multiple continents. The big change behind the expansion of identity theft, law-enforcement agencies say, is the growth of online scams.

Police are finding well-run, hierarchical groups that are structured like businesses. With names such as Carderplanet, Darkprofits and Shadowcrew, these sites act as online bazaars for stolen personal information. The sites are often password-protected and ask new members to prove their criminal credentials by offering samples of stolen data.

Shadowcrew members stole more than $4 million between August 2002 and October 2004, according to an indictment of 19 of the site’s members returned last October by a federal grand jury in Newark, N.J. The organization comprised some 4,000 members who traded at least 1.5 million stolen credit-card numbers, the indictment says.

The organizations often are dominated by Eastern European and Russian members. With their abundance of technical skills and dearth of jobs, police say, those countries provide a rich breeding ground for identity thieves. One of Carderplanet’s founders was an accomplished Ukrainian hacker who went by the online alias “Script,” a law-enforcement official says. As with many of its peers, the Carderplanet site was mainly in Russian but had a dedicated forum for English speakers.

Well worth a read as it details how Havard’s UK operation worked.

A Glimpse Of A Tentacle From The Phishing Monster

Gradually the tentacles of the Russian gangs behind phishing are appearing. But we still have no idea how it really works, and how big the beast is.

The Boston Herald reports today on the arraignment of a “suspected Russian mobster” on multiple counts of identity fraud, having allegedly obtained personal information from more than 100 victims by phishing emails.

Andrew Schwarmkoff, 28, was ordered held on $100,000 cash bail after being arraigned in Brighton District Court on multiple counts of credit card fraud, identity fraud, larceny and receiving stolen property. He is also wanted in Georgia on similar charges, and is being investigated in New Jersey.

What’s interesting is that clearly phishing is tied in, as if we didn’t know, with broader financial fraud. Schwarmkoff — if that is his real name, since investigators are unsure if they have even positively identified him — was found with “$200,000 worth of stolen merchandise, high-tech computer and credit card scanning equipment, more than 100 ID cards with fraudulently obtained information and nearly $15,000 in cash,” the Herald says.

That would at least indicate that phishing is not just an isolated occupation, and that the data obtained is not necessarily just used to empty bank accounts, but to make counterfeit cards, ID cards and all sorts of stuff. What’s also clear is that the Russians (or maybe we should say folk from the former Soviet Union states) are doing this big time. The Herald quotes sources as saying “Schwarmkoff is a member of the Russian mob and has admitted entering the country illegally. “We know some things that we don’t want to comment about,” a source said, “but he’s big time.”

Schwarmkoff, needless to say, isn’t talking. “‘Would you?’ the Herald quotes the source as saying. “Schwarmkoff,” the Herald quotes him as saying, “is more content to sit in jail than risk the consequences of ratting out the Russian mob.” That probably tells us all we need to know.

News: No More Face Scans, Please

 From the We’re Not Quite There Dept comes news of a failure: facial-recognition software.
The St. Petersburg Times reports that two years after Tampa became the nation’s first city to use facial-recognition software to search for wanted criminals, officials are dropping the program. It led to zero arrests. Police spokesman Joe Durkin put a brave face on it: “I wouldn’t consider it a failure,” he said. “You are always looking for new and efficient ways to provide the best service to the community. There’s going to be ups and downs.”
 
 
The system used New Jersey-based Visionics Corp’s Face-It software, which was installed on 36 cameras in the Ybor City entertainment district.

Mail: More on Pirates

 More mail about online piracy and the music industry. I wrote earlier:  
 
I agree with you about people being upset, but I’m not so sure about the recording off the radio bit. Digital versions don’t have DJs interrupting before the end of the song, and they’re perfect copies, and can be copied perfectly and distributed easily. I can give you my whole music collection on a CD or two. That makes it a different ballgame…
 
Here’s Lynn Dimick again:
 
That’s true. The question I have is this: Is music swapping costing the industry money? Now, on the surface anytime you have a product being given away for free it is going to take away from sales. But, if the product is being given to a consumer who cannot or will not buy it, even if it cost $1 then there is no lost sale. My suspicion is that the music industry is producing music that is appealing to those who have less money and less inclination to spend than before. Even if music sharing were not available they would not be buying CDs.
 
 I am 43. I have well over 200 CDs in my collection that I have bought. But I haven’t bought a CD in the past 3 years. Why? Because they (the music industry) are not producing a product that I listen to. The demographics that I belong to (white male 40+) has more money than any other age group, especially the teenagers that seem to be doing all of the sharing.
 
I heard on the news this morning that Bruce Springsteen had a concert last night at the Meadowlands in New Jersey. 55,000 people came to see the show. He has 9 more dates there. Most of those attending are going to be my age and not teenagers. Who has the money and who is being ignored by the music industry?
 
Thanks for that. Thoughts, anyone? A friend recently forwarded me a piece from The Guardian on this very topic. My view is that the music world has splintered so effectively, hastened by the advent of the Net, that it makes it so much harder nowadays to find the music we want. There’s some very appealing stuff out there — my favourite of the moment is Lemongrass, for example — but you’re not going to find them in a CD shop. In a way this diversity is good but us busy folks (I’m no spring chicken either) don’t have the time or energy to look too hard for this kind of thing. I’ve found a sanctuary of sorts in Emusic where at least one can experiment legally without blowing a hole in the housekeeping.