Police have arrested 28 individuals suspected of being part of a global internet-based organised crime network dealing in identity theft, computer fraud, credit card fraud and conspiracy.
A 19-year-old British man from Camberley, Surrey, was arrested as part of the sting operation on Wednesday by National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) officers.
Led by the US Secret Service, investigators from nearly 30 US and foreign law enforcement agencies nabbed 27 others from seven countries suspected of being involved in the crime ring.
The investigation which led to the arrests began in July 2003, when the US Secret Service began investigating access device fraud.
By going undercover on the Shadowcrew.com website, US investigators were able to find out which of the site's 4,000 members were actively taking part in criminal conduct. The investigation led to the Secret Service alleging that two other websites - Carderplanet and Darkprofits - were also acting as portals for other financial crimes organisations.
Criminals alledgedly used the three sites to traffic counterfeit credit cards and false identification information, and documents such as credit cards, driver's licences, domestic and foreign passports and birth certificates.
These websites not only shared information on how to commit fraud but provided a forum where such information and tools could be purchased, according to acting detective chief superintendent Mick Deats, head of the NHTCU.
"This investigation has resulted in the significant disruption of organised criminals using the internet for profit. We believe that the suspects have trafficked at least 1.7 million stolen credit card numbers, leading to losses by financial institutions running into the millions," said Deats.
"Your identity is one of the most precious commodities. Criminals who try to steal the personal and financial information of ordinary citizens, as well as the confidential and proprietary information of companies engaged in e-commerce, will be targeted by law enforcement."
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