US authorities have charged three men with running an online shop that made and sold counterfeit credit and debit cards and holographic overlays to crooks.
According to the FBI, Sean Roberson began selling counterfeit cards as early as April 2011 before launching a dedicated site, fakeplastic.net, in June 2012 which he operated with sidekicks Vinicio Gonzalez and Hugo Rebaza.
Fraudsters with stolen financial details used the site to get custom-made cards made up that could be used in-store and at ATMs. The site offered embossed and unembossed options as well as holographic stickers and overlays.
New Jersey US Attorney Fishman says: "This made-to-measure service provided the last link in the chain necessary for criminals to make money from stolen credit card numbers and identities."
Roberson used US mail to ship 3600 parcels to customers containing around 69,000 counterfeit cards, 35,000 holographic stickers used to make them appear more legitimate and more than 30,000 state identification card holographic overlays.
The site's 400-odd members initially paid for the cards using the Liberty Reserve online currency but when this was killed off by feds last March a switch was made to bitcoin.
Working on the assumption that each card saw a loss of $500, authorities estimate the scammers cost victims more than $34.5 million. Roberson personally made $1.7 million.
The FBI and US Postal Inspection Service took control of fakeplastic.net in December and used to it to make more than 30 controlled deliveries to customers, which resulted in another 11 arrests.
A search at the house of one of the 11, Nashancy Johnny Colbert, turned up 41 embossed counterfeit payment cards embossed with his and other names, as well as a discarded US Express Mail envelope sent from the fakeplastic site.