Video: Internet fraud flourishes

By Rehema Ellis Correspondent
NBC News
updated 6/21/2005 7:35:30 PM ET 2005-06-21T23:35:30

NEW YORK — The swipe of a credit card is the sound of legitimate commerce. But what you can't hear is the sound of hackers stealing credit card information and selling it on the Internet at huge profits.

Security experts say it's a multibillion-dollar global business.

"It's so widespread," says Mark Rasch, a computer security expert with Solutionary Inc. "It's used against many different countries, and law enforcement only has a small handle on it."

The FBI and Secret Service say they have had some success. In October, in an international sting called "Operation Firewall," authorities arrested 30 people in eight states and six countries.

"It has become more sophisticated," says U.S. Secret Service Agent Brian Nagel. "It has evolved. And information is the thing of value now. It's no longer just looking after one credit card number."

Authorities say the thieves they arrested in October had caused more than $4 million in losses.

Experts say the problem continues to grow and has generated a black market for credit card and personal information.

How does it work?

Will Femia, an MSNBC.com Internet analyst, says after the thieves steal the information, they broker it in Internet chat rooms, where you can buy Social Security numbers and a whole lot more.

"Definitely more. The mother's maiden name you can see right here," says Femia as he shows us one Web site. "Also the PIN number that you would enter in an ATM machine, expiration dates, date of birth, the credit card number itself."

All this leaves consumers feeling vulnerable.

"It's kind of scary, because, I mean, I don't have any idea how to protect myself," says New York City resident Tim Powell.

Security experts say read your credit card and banking statements carefully and check for any unauthorized transactions. Some companies do limit your liability to $50, but if you don't report it within 60 days, the charges could become your responsibility.

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