An investigation led by the US Secret Service has resulted in the arrests of 28 people suspected of being involved with a global Internet-based organised crime network dealing in ID theft, credit card fraud, computer fraud and conspiracy.
Operation Firewall began in July 2003 as a probe into access device fraud. The case evolved into an investigation involving global credit card fraud and identity theft over the Internet.
Undercover police infilterated online criminal gangs - called Shadowcrew, Carderplanet and Darkprofits - which operated Web sites to traffic counterfeit credit cards, false ID information and personal documents such as credit cards, driver's licences, passports and birth certificates.
The Web sites also displayed information on how to commit ID fraud. The US Justice Department described the operation as a one-stop marketplace for identity theft.
US police say the suspects collectively trafficked over 1.7 million stolen credit card numbers, resulting in losses to financial institutions of more than $4.3 million.
W. Ralph Basham, Secret Service director, says: "These suspects targeted the personal and financial information of ordinary citizens as well as the confidential and proprietary information of companies engaged in e-commerce."
The Secret Service says the suspects were located across eight states and six foreign countries. The UK's National Hi-Tech Crime Unit says in a separate statement that it has arrested a 19 year old British man suspected of being involved in the network.