Internet Crime Shifts to Russia

Trafficking in stolen credit cards has largely shifted to Russian-language Web sites after an international crackdown sparked disarray among English-speaking scam artists, a U.S. Secret Service official said on Wednesday.

The October 2004 raid, dubbed Operation Firewall, led to 28 arrests in seven countries and shut down several Web sites that served as online bazaars where scam artists could buy and sell credit-card numbers, drivers' licenses and other documents.

Now much of the activity has shifted to Russian-language Web sites that are wary of outsiders, posing additional challenges to online investigators who must cope with language and legal barriers, said Brian Nagel, the Secret Service's director of investigations.

"The English-speaking side of this criminal activity seems to be in complete disarray," Nagel said at a credit-card security conference.

"The Russian-speaking side ... rebounded pretty strongly and there seems to be more membership than there was before," he said.

Nagel said just a "handful" of Secret Service agents speak Russian. "It's not a problem, but it's an area where we need to grow," he told Reuters.

Those arrested in the Operation Firewall crackdown were responsible for at least $4.3 million in losses, the Secret Service said at the time.

Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.

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