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Feds charge miami man in largest case of identity theft and credit card fraud

Posted on August 18, 2009 3:00 AM EST

On Monday, federal prosecutors indicted a Miami man in federal court with the largest case of credit card fraud in the history of the United States for engaging in the theft of credit and debit cards numbers. Albert Gonzalez, a former government informant, stole information from 130 million credit and debit card accounts. As an informant, he assisted the United States Secret Service hunting down hackers who were also engaged in credit card fraud. The Secret Service later found out that Gonzalez aided other hackers by giving them information regarding other investigations. Miami criminal attorneys regularly defend credit card fraud cases in Miami both in state and federal court.

Gonzalez is currently in custody in Brooklyn, New York, and is set for trial next month on a prior hacking case in federal court. He was indicted in 2008 for committing credit card fraud by illegally obtaining credit card information from 5,000 patrons of a Dave and Buster's Restaurant.

The newest indictment alleges that Gonzalez and two co-conspirators stole data from convenience store giant 7-Eleven, Heartland Payment Systems, Inc., regional supermarket chain Hannaford Brothers Co. and two other national retail stores. Gonzalez allegedly developed a method by which he was able to penetrate computer networks and steal the credit card and debit card data and transfer that information to computer servers in California, Illinois, Latvia, the Ukraine and the Netherlands. According to the indictment, Gonzalez and his co-conspirators used malicious software called "malware" to hack into the computer networks by gaining back door access and then would later steal the data.

Federal authorities do not know how much of the data was sold and then used to make fraudulent credit card and debit card transactions. Investigators reported that it is nearly impossible due to the scope of the fraud to determine how many people were victimized by this crime. The Justice Department said that this case is largest scheme to defraud involving a credit card and debit card breach of security. Assistant U.S. Attorney Erez Lieberman said, "The scope is massive. This guy worked very, very hard at something he was good at."

Since 2006, cases involving individuals steal credit card and debit card information has sky-rocketed. Many offenders are not computer geniuses, but use a technique called "war driving" which involves using laptop computers and looking for accessible wireless internet signals. Once the hackers enter the system, they install "sniffer programs" which hunt for a capture credit card and debit card numbers as they move through a retailer's computer system.

Prosecutors Say Man Stole 130M Credit Card Numbers, The Miami Herald, August 18, 2009
Categories: Fraud