US cracks 'biggest identity theft ring'

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The Independent US

The authorities in the United States have cracked what they said was the biggest identity theft ring ever seen in the country, involving no fewer than 40 million numbers on debit and credit cards stolen from major retailers.

There was a warning that the cost to those whose card numbers were stolen could amount to billions of dollars and that many of the victims may not yet have any idea their cards were targeted.

The Attorney General, Michael Mukasey, said 11 people had been arrested. They are accused of hacking into the computer systems of the retail companies, often by circling their shops in cars and using wireless technology to gain access to their data networks. Three of those arrested were US citizens, while the others came from countries that included Estonia and China.

According to the indictments, the ring stored the stolen numbers on computers in the US and in Europe and used them to create phoney banking cards.

The owners of the discount chain TJ Maxx acknowledged in February that more than 40 million credit numbers had been stolen from their computer archives.

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