Information (identity) theft sometimes leads to innocent people being charged with a crime. Recently, I’ve been reading about how British citizens were accused of viewing child pornography, when they were actually victims of credit card fraud.

The Guardian did an excellent article about this, explaining how the porn industry supplements it’s income with payment (debit/credit) card fraud. This explains how innocent people, who are victims of credit card fraud, get accused of crimes they didn’t commit:

One method used from 1999 by criminals, including the Gambino mafia family in the US, was to offer free tours, or access for a credit card payment as small as $1.95, to adult sex sites. Customers had to provide name, address, card details, and email address and password. The criminals then reused the data or traded them online with other fraudsters.

Operating out of Indonesia, Russia or Brazil, many of the webmasters linked via Landslide appear to have obtained and swapped lists of stolen cards and charged them up through different portals, usually for amounts of less than $50 – small enough that unwary people might not spot them on a credit card statement.

The current arrests stem from a larger investigation, where a U.S. based child porn website (Landslide Inc.) was investigated, revealing 250,000 credit card numbers (used on the site), belonging to card holders, worldwide.

Copies of the hard drives were provided to British law enforcement. Subsequently, thousands of British citizens were investigated, as a result of having their credit card number show up as having paid for Landslide’s seedy services.

The investigation began in 1999 and was conducted by the United States Postal Inspection Service and Dallas Police Department. It exposed how the Internet is used to commit this disgusting crime (child pornography), globally, with the click of a mouse.

The investigation tracked activity to 60 different countries. 120 people were eventually arrested in the United States. Pete Townsend, the Who’s guitarist was arrested for viewing child porngraphy in this investigation, also.

54,348 of the credit card numbers discovered in the U.S. search warrant were identified as having been stolen from Levenger Incorporated, a luxury goods company. Of course, Levenger declined to comment on how the information was stolen.

The Guardian article makes a clear argument that many more of the numbers taken in the search warrant could have been stolen (in a lot of places) and used on the Landslide site.

The sheer amount of stolen information and fraudulent payment devices circulating via the Internet is victimizing innocent people, and more than likely giving guilty people, plausible deniability.

Not everyone caught in this was a victim of credit card fraud. Exploiting children is one of the most disgusting crimes I can think of. People, who exploit children, deserve to be punished, severely.

It’s apparent that our inability to address the source(s) of crime on the Internet is having VERY severe consequences on the people, who are victimized by it.

Innocent, or guilty, 39 people have committed suicide over this. Wouldn’t it be nice if some of these child pornographers/credit card fraudsters could be charged with murder, or at least manslaughter?

USPIS press release on Operation Avalanche, here.

Suspected crimes against children can be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, here.

Well researched article from the Guardian, here.

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