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Online scheme targeted personal identification information

Many New Jersey consumers like the convenience of paying bills online. That process typically involves entering personal or financial information. As today's story illustrates, however, that increasingly popular technology has created a new arena for white-collar criminal allegations, including the risk of online identity theft.

According to a criminal complaint recently unsealed in a federal court, 2 dozen people -- on 4 continents -- have been arrested in a 2-year FBI sting targeting online financial fraud. The suspects are alleged to have bought and sold hacking programs and stolen information on secure websites.

Undercover investigators began the sting in June, 2010, by setting up a website called "Carder Profit." The site permitted agents to monitor and record private messages and identify the computers of registered users. The registration process for the website required users to agree to blanket terms and conditions, including one stating that their activities on the site were subject to monitoring for any purpose.

Federal officials characterize the sting as the largest enforcement effort to date against criminals specializing in stealing and trafficking credit card, bank and other personal identification information on the Internet. Officials claim the arrests have protected more than 400,000 potential victims and avoided losses of around $205 million.

Law enforcement efforts to identify fraud and other financial crimes may be increasing, and Internet monitoring by undercover agents is not limited by any state or national boundaries. If you have been charged with a fraud offense, don't delay in contacting an attorney. Typically, the investigation will involve search warrants, regulatory inspections and interviews. An attorney can ensure your rights are protected throughout that process and help you prepare your best defense.

Source: New Jersey Herald, "Feds: Sting targeted online financial fraud," Tom Hays, June 26, 2012

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