A criminal gang thought to be operating out of Russia has used technology to revive a very old form of fraud – writing bad cheques.
The criminals broke into three cheque archiving image sites, which are used to store pictures of all cheques that are passed through retailers. They downloaded 200,000 examples and used the banking information, sort codes and signatures to write cheques for over 1,200 legitimate accounts.
A team at SecureWorks, an Atlanta computer security company, uncovered the fraud, which is thought to have netted the gang at least US$9m. It is working with the FBI but so far none of the gang have been arrested.
Counterfeit cheque writing is a very old form of fraud but the gang had put a high tech twist on it said John Stewart, chief executive of SecureWorks. He said that the sites involved had been notified but others were no doubt being targeted.
The gang sent out the bogus cheques to ‘money mules’ around the world using overnight shipping paid for with stolen credit cards, he said. The company said that six mules had been contacted and all denied sending money to the gang.
The gang wrote 3,285 cheques against 1,280 accounts since June 2009 he said. Most were for less than US$3,000, as an attempt to evade banks' anti-fraud measures.