Drug dealers appear to be abandoning their traditional profession in favour of identify theft, according to a security expert at Infosecurity Europe 2007.
Gordon Rapkin, president of data integrity firm Protegrity, reported that an FBI agent has warned that drug cartels are increasingly abandoning or scaling down their narcotics operations and using their existing network of workers to commit large-scale identity theft.
"Basically the profits are about the same, plus there's the added bonus of not being shot at," said Rapkin.
"In addition the sentences are much lighter and the FBI and other law enforcement are less interested in tracking down the perpetrators, or not interested at all if the amounts stolen are small enough."
Drug bosses are collecting credit card details and creating bogus cards for use at retailers. Gangs of former street dealers are then rounded up, driven en masse to a shopping centre and assigned certain shops to buy preselected items.
By keeping spend down to $200 per person the gangs can usually avoid having the cards refused and the goods can be sold legally, and untraceably, on online auction sites.
With stolen credit cards now being traded for as little as £4, according to the UK's Serious Organised Crime Agency, there are now fears that this kind of crime could be moving to the UK.
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