US$ 45 Million Debit card scam connected to Dominican Republic – The international ring that stole US$45 million in 27 countries through ATM operations, also cloned the cards of businessmen and celebrities from the Dominican Republic, the National Police said.

U.S. officials said Thursday that the scam had a branch in New York City, composed of Dominicans, whose alleged leader, identified as Alberto Yusi Lajud Peña, 23, was killed on April 27 in a house in San Francisco de Macoris.

Investigators found US$100,000 in cash in the house, as well as an M-16 assault rifle, two 9 mm pistols, a revolver, ammunition clips and a telescopic sight. The money and weapons belonged to Lajud-Pena, police said.


Most popular destinations for this type of fraud are the United States and the Dominican Republic

By Paisley Dodds, Associated Press

International law enforcement agencies say the recent $45 million dollar ATM heist is just one of many scams they're fighting in an unprecedented wave of sophisticated cyberattacks.   Old-school robberies by masked criminals are being eclipsed by stealth multimillion dollar cybercrime operations which are catching companies and investigators by surprise.   "We are seeing an unprecedented number of cyberscams that include phishing for financial data, viruses, credit card fraud and others," Marcin Skowronek, an investigator at Europol's European Cybercrime Center in The Hague said on Saturday.   "In Europe, we are generally quite well protected against some types of fraud because of the chip and pin technology we use, but there are still shops and machines around the world who still take cards without chips. And the most popular destinations for this type of fraud are the United States and the Dominican Republic."   U.S. Investigators said Thursday a gang hit cash machines in 27 countries in two attacks — the first netting $5 million in December and then $40 million in February in a 10-hour spree that involved about 36,000 transactions.   Hackers got into bank databases, eliminated withdrawal limits on prepaid debit cards and created access codes. Others loaded that data onto any plastic card — even a hotel keycard — with a magnetic stripe   A similar scam yielded some 50 arrests this year in Europe during a joint police operation between Romanian police and Europol, Skowronek said.   The operation took more than a year, involved some 400 police officers across Europe and required work comparing bank losses to illegal transactions and then cross-referencing suspects, said Skowronek, who said many national police forces were beefing up their undercover work in the cyberworld to catch criminals.   Investigators found illegal workshops for producing devices and software to manipulate point-of-sale terminals. Illegal electronic equipment, financial data, cloned cards and cash were seized in raids in Britain and Romania.   The group stole credit and debit card numbers and PIN codes by implanting card reading devices and malicious software on point-of-sale terminals. The criminals then used counterfeit payment cards with stolen data for further illegal transactions in countries that included Argentina, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the United States.   Some 36,000 debit card and credit card holders in some 16 countries were affected, Skowronek said. The amount stolen was unclear.   Bank fraud, ATM scams and phishing are common in Romania, one of the most corrupt countries in the European Union, according to Transparency International which monitors and measures graft.   Under the late communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, who was ousted and executed in 1989, Romanians specialized in mathematics and computer coding and criminal gangs have tapped into those skills. The tradition has continued and Romanian school students are more advanced in mathematics than many of their European counterparts.   Nadine Spanu, a spokeswoman for Romania's anti-crime prosecutors, said Saturday she had no statement to offer on the $45 million heist or a possible Romania connection.   Skimming works when criminals place devices on ATMs that copy consumers' card details and leave them vulnerable to fraud. There have been similar cases in the United States and Britain.   The EU is the world's largest market for payment card transactions and it is estimated that organized crime groups derive more than 1.5 billion euros ($1.9 billion) a year from payment card fraud in the EU.   Mike Urban, director of financial crime solutions at Fiserv, a Brookfield-Wisconsin-based company that provides financial technology to banks, credit unions and corporations across the world, says banks have not caught up with the threat of electronic crime.   "Compare this to a physical bank security. If someone walks in today, they're probably not going to get very much money, the dye pack is going to explode, they will be caught on video, they're probably not going to get away with it, and they're probably going to spend a long time in jail," said Urban. "Online, in the cyberworld, we're not there yet."

Go back | Date: 04 Jul 2013
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