Scammers Play Robin Hood to Test Stolen Credit Cards
The Symantec security blog today talks about a trend its authors are seeing more of: Scammers using stolen credit cards to make small donations to online charities.
The prevailing theory is not that the criminals are being altruistic Rather, security researchers believe the donations are being made to test whether a stolen card is still active, much in the same way that thieves test stolen physical cards at gas pumps, where there is little chance of anyone spotting them if the card comes up canceled.
According to Symantec, "bank behavior monitors may be less likely to pick up on donations to charities. Legitimate charitable donations are not daily transactions for anyone with a credit card, and so it would be difficult to determine if they are out of the norm."
This is hardly a new trend. Two years ago, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Security Fix spotted scam artists using stolen credit cards to donate to the Katrina relief efforts. Last year, in a story I wrote about hacked online merchants, I found additional evidence that criminals were using online charities to test stolen credit card accounts.
At the ShmooCon hacker conference in Washington, D.C., earlier this year, I had dinner with a guy who worked as an administrator for one of the major 2004 presidential campaign Web sites. Turns out, at one of the busiest periods of the online fundraising period, tens of thousands of small, five-cent donations came into the campaign over the course of several days from a group of computers located in Eastern Europe, with payments being made via thousands of different credit card numbers.
In that case, the crooks had automated their process for testing stolen card numbers. The campaign the source worked for was forced to deny all $60,000 that came in.
I would look for this to happen, possibly on a much larger scale, in the upcoming 2008 presidential election.
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