Identity theft makes strange bedfellows

Swiper no swiping!  This story of identity theft reminds me of the story where “Dora the Explorer” traveled around the work to share her friendship bracelets and encountered a number of thieves in every country that were trying to steal her friendship bracelets.  Okay, yes I have children but when you hear the details about what is being called the largest identity theft bust of its kind in the United States you may see the similarities.

Reports of 111 suspects, including 25 people that are being sought in connection for these crimes were targeted for their involvement in “Operation Swiper.”  While arrested by authorities in New York, this identity theft ring came from across the globe with connections to Russia, India, China, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.  Their take was approximately 13 million dollars stolen from victims in Europe and the United States.  Queens County District Attorney calls it “called it the largest and perhaps most sophisticated ring of its kind in U.S. history.”

How did Operation Swiper work?

“The schemes and the imagination of these thieves is mind boggling,” said New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly at a press conference.  “These crimes are getting more sophisticated and thieves have amazing knowledge of how to use technology.”

First the crime ring began with blank credit cards received from suppliers in Russia, Libya, China and Lebanon.  Next they hired people to pretend to be waiters and retail workers so thaty they could use electronic devices to steal information from credit cards in use at these establishments.   The information was imprinted, and forged credit cards and state Driver’s Licenses were made to match in case of being asked to provide a valid form of photo I.D.

According to NYPD deputy inspector Gregory Antonsen, “They can actually make a license from any state in the union, print credit cards of any color and even put the holograms on there.”

Cards in hand these credit card and identity thieves would head out on expensive shopping sprees at places like Best, Buy, Gucci, Macy’s and Nordstrom’s.  After making their purchases they would then sell those items to people overseas who normally couldn’t find these types of high end products.

Guess what the most popular item to buy (steal) and sell was?  Apple products.   Of course other high end items computers, watches and fancy handbags from Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Rolexe and Breitling were in high demand.

According to authorities in New York, forging credit cards in the United States is easier than in Europe.  Credit cards overseas are more sophisticating including a computer chip that must be used to activate and use the card.  No chip, no card, no sale.

The sting on Operation Swiper

The suspects were caught after an approximately two year-long investigation which  included wire taps, search warrants.  Investigators overheard conversations held in several languages and translated them from Arabic, Mandarian and Russion to English to gain information for the sting.

During the “take down”  police reportedly seized “$650,000 in cash, Apple computer products worth tens of thousands of dollars, $850,000 worth of computer equipment stolen from the Citigroup Building in Queens, seven handguns and a truck full of electronics, computers, designer shoes, watches and identity theft equipment.”

What do you think?  Identity theft definitely makes strange bedfellows.   In some cases you can’t get people from different cultures to agree on what meal to eat let alone conduct a crime of this magnitude.  Personally, I think a few world politicians may be able to learn a thing or two from them.



Business World

San Francisco Examiner