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DOJ to Congress: Amend Laws to Help us Prosecute for Overseas Fraud on U.S. Cards

While there have been many successful efforts to bring international fraudsters to justice in U.S. courts, this often requires cooperation from other nations. To make prosecution efforts easier against international fraudsters the U.S. Department of Justice is asking Congress for help, requesting amendments to existing law so that it is illegal to possess, use, buy or sell any stolen credit card that was issued in the United States, regardless of the fraudster’s physical location at the time when the theft or transaction occurs.

The Justice Department says that new or updated laws are needed as there are fraudsters and criminal organizations operating overseas and committing widespread fraud against payment cards issued in the United States. Often because the fraudster is never on U.S. soil, current laws in the way they are written can make prosecution difficult or not possible. Existing laws cover events such as someone abroad hacking into a U.S. computer, stolen cards used or possessed inside the U.S. and money transfers into the United States. However, being in possession of stolen cards outside of the U.S. and using them from outside of the U.S. are not enough for prosecution alone.

A prime example of this issue was with catching the Russian hacker Vladislav Horohorin, AKA “BadB”. While he had 2.5 million stolen credit cards in his possession, this alone did not permit prosecution. In order to bring charges authorities had to stage the sale of stolen card information to an undercover agent.

Today law enforcement agencies continue to identify fraudsters and fraud rings in other nations who are selling large quantities of payment cards issued in the United States, but without ever passing their business through the nation’s boundaries. The black market forums, marketplaces and exchanges these fraudsters use are primarily hosted in countries outside of the United States. Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell elaborated that this has become “a huge law enforcement issue when it’s our financial institutions and our citizens’ credit card data that’s being stolen,” and that the requested changes from the DOJ are “a very simple fix, and it makes perfect sense to fix it.”

While expanding the ability for U.S. authorities to bring charges against cybercriminals that never enter the United States is an important step in the right direction, it does nothing in terms ensuring extradition or cooperation from non-allied countries and those that offer asylum. However, these measures do show that the Department of Justice is trying to increase their ability to deter these crimes and that they will continue to pursue these criminals.

It is possible that changes to these laws are made during the next Congressional session when new bills are heard and see a vote. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Lindsey Graham are drafting a bill targeting botnets which may include increased sections to address these issues regarding the use of stolen U.S. cards by fraudsters overseas.

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