According to an interesting story at Wired’s Danger Room blog, the FTC has filed a lawsuit against a number of “John Doe” defendants who stole more than $10 million dollars from 1.3 million credit card holders since 2006. Using a variety of shell companies and money mules recruited via online advertising for work at home jobs, the unidentified defendants made small (20 cents to 10 dollar) charges to victims’ credit cards. Each card was charged only once, but at 1.3 million cards, we’re talking some serious coin here. In addition to being evil, this scheme was pretty smart – since the charges were so small, most people (90% in this case) never bothered to dispute them – after all, how much time are you willing to spend disputing a charge for a couple of bucks? While the FTC has identified some of the mules, the ringleaders remain unknown.
In the old days, this type of scam was called “salami slicing” – stealing just a little bit (one slice of salami) from a lot of people adds up to a big salami. Mmmmmm…. salami….
This is a really hard type of fraud to fight… since so few of the charges were contested, it took 4 years for and credit card issuers and feds to find a pattern. In the mean time, all of the victims suffered very small losses. The ringleaders got their millions and are still on the lam (eating salami and caviar sandwiches, I assume).