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Phishing gang arrested in USA and Eastern Europe after FBI investigation


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17 individuals held in investigation that covered USA, Poland and Romania

More than 20 FBI offices are said to have been involved in the investigation into the global identity theft ring, which is claimed to have been involved in a phishing attack against a major financial institution between August and October 2004.

In an investigation called "Operation Cardkeeper", FBI agents, working with local authorities, identitifed a criminal ring who were allegedly selling stolen identities, credit card and bank account information through a forum on an internet website.

The suspected ringleader of the gang, a Polish man known as "Blindroot", is said to have hacked into third party computers to rent out webspace to other criminals who wanted to host bogus websites for the purposes of phishing.

Four arrests were made in the USA and 13 people were apprehended in Poland. The American suspects were caught with cards and machines used to encode data onto blank credit cards and when authorities attempted to search the premises, one suspect tried to flush counterfeit credit cards down the toilet. In addition to the arrests, raids were reportedly carried out in New York, Texas, Tennessee, Nebraska, Georgia and Ohio, and search warrants served on three other suspects under investigation in Romania.

"The authorities fighting computer crime should be applauded for working together across international boundaries to break up these criminal gangs," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "Phishing and identity theft are global problems, and countries need to work more closely with each other to bring the bad guys to justice. Although the news of these arrests is good news, it's only the tip of the iceberg as there are many other phishers still at large."

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