US authorities have ordered the seizure of 36 websites engaged in selling and distributing stolen credit card numbers, officials said Thursday.
Visitors to the website, now in the custody of the federal government, are now greeted by a seizure banner under the FBI and Justice Department operation run in coordination with Britain's Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) and other international law enforcement agencies.
Under Operation Wreaking hAVoC, law enforcement officials made undercover purchases of credit card numbers, at the suspect websites.
The sites are known as Automated Vending Carts, (AVC) which allow visitors to purchase stolen credit card numbers online using a virtual "shopping cart."
The banks that issued the credit card numbers, including Bank of America, Sun Trust and Capital One, confirmed that the websites were not authorized to sell the numbers. Authorities obtained seizures orders from a federal magistrate judge in the Eastern District of Virginia.
"The websites we are targeting today were commercial outlets for stolen credit card information," Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer said in a statement.
"By making this information available on the Internet, these websites facilitated fraud on credit card holders around the world."
Some AVC websites allow buyers to choose the type of credit card number to purchase, along with the account's country of origin and the state in which the account holder lives. Through the sites, sellers can traffic stolen credit card information without communicating directly with buyers.
"Countless lives are thrown into financial turmoil because of these websites," said US Attorney Neil MacBride.
"With a few simple clicks, thousands of stolen credit card numbers can be bought or sold to fraudsters anywhere in the world."
In addition to SOCA, other international partners in the operation included Britain's Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit, the Australian Federal Police, the German Bundeskriminalamt, the Macedonian Interior Ministry's Cyber Crime Unit, Ukraine's Internal Affairs Ministry, Romania's Interior Ministry and the Dutch High-Tech Crime Unit.