A criminal gang thought to be operating out of Russia has used technology to revive a very old form of fraud - writing bad cheques.
The criminals broke into three cheque archiving image sites, which are used to store pictures of all cheques that pass through retailers.
The gang downloaded 200,000 examples and used the account numbers, sort codes and signatures to write cheques drawn on over 1,200 legitimate accounts.
A team at Atlanta-based security firm SecureWorks uncovered the fraud, which is thought to have netted the gang at least $9m (£5.75m). The company is working with the FBI, but none of the gang has been arrested so far.
Counterfeit cheque writing is a very old form of fraud, but the gang had put a high-tech twist on it, explained Michael Cote, chief executive of SecureWorks.
The image sites involved have been notified, but others are no doubt being targeted, he warned.
The gang sent the bogus cheques to money mules around the world using overnight shipping paid for with stolen credit cards. SecureWorks said that six mules had been contacted, all of whom denied sending money to the gang.
The fraud involved 3,285 cheques against 1,280 accounts since June 2009. Most were for less than $3,000 (£1,920) in an attempt to evade anti-fraud measures.
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