updated 4/27/2012 11:51:46 AM ET 2012-04-27T15:51:46

An international law enforcement sting has put an end to 36 illegal websites used to sell vast amounts of stolen credit cards and online banking credentials.

Working with the FBI, the U.S. Department of Justice and enforcement agencies from Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Romania and Ukraine, Britain's Serious Organized Crime Agency (SOCA) took down the sites on Wednesday (April 25). Three suspects were also arrested.

The fraudulent card resellers used an e-commerce platform called Automated Vending Carts (AVCs), which, SOCA said, enabled them "to sell large quantities of stolen data quickly and easily."

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The British crime agency said it has been tracking AVCs and their use in facilitating large-scale credit-card fraud, and in the past two years it has recovered more than 2.5 million items of compromised personal and financial information. SOCA estimates the potential global fraud prevented by the website takedowns at more than £500 million (about $811 million).

Along with the site takedowns, BBC News  reports that police arrested two British men, a 23-year-old in Birmingham and a 27-year-old in North London, suspected of making large-scale purchases of stolen financial data from an illegal reseller. An AVC operator in Macedonia was also arrested, and U.K. agents seized "a number of computers" suspected of being used to facilitate fraudulent activity. More arrests are expected.

"This operation is an excellent example of the level of international cooperation being focused on tackling online fraud," Lee Miles, head of cyber operations for SOCA, said in a statement. "Our activities have saved business, online retailers and financial institutions potential fraud losses estimated at more than half a billion pounds, and at the same time protected thousands of individuals from the distress caused by being a victim of fraud or identity crime."

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