On September 14, France’s Financial Affairs police arrested two men for illegal possession of financial data. The men, according to Le Progrès, a French regional newspaper, ran a credit card fraud operation in Lyon, France. One man stole card numbers and the second packaged the numbers for distribution on darknet marketplaces and forums.
The credit card fraud began in June 2015 when the first suspect started working in the central business district of Lyon: La Part-Dieu. There, he had access to the credit and debit cards of thousands of unsuspected victims. He worked at a shop near the primary railway station for the Paris-Lyon-Marseille railway called the Part-Dieu. The city of Lyon is one of the busiest and interconnected cities in France and the site ranks among the top stations in Europe with the the most travelers.
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At his job, he stole both the numbers “bank codes” of customers, the Financial Police suspect. He passed this information to his 28-year-old (and younger) accomplice in Villeurbanne. The accomplice sold the card numbers on the darknet until an unknown date in February 2016. The gross profit from the stolen card number sales totaled an estimated $20,000. They shared the illicit income and—assuming, for the sake of achieving a general estimate, they had each received equal portions—discounting transaction fees, both suspects earned $10,000 over nine months. Barely $1,000 per month.
One could likely (roughly) estimate the number of cards stolen by looking at average card listings during that period of time. For instance, per the 2016 DeepDotWeb article “The Life of a Stolen Credit Card,” card numbers sold on Alphabay for somewhere under $10. That price was for individual card listings, though, and did not reflect bulk pricing. An excerpt from the article explaining US banks and the use of stolen cards:
“Due to the widespread use of credit card fraud, banks rarely investigate fraud cards under $2000, because they lack the resources and personnel to profitably recover all of the lost capital. This makes consumers vulnerable if banks refuse to honor fraud coverage.”
In spite of the relatively low profit the duo collected, French police investigated the stolen cards for long after the partners completed their gig. (Damages caused by the card buyers likely directly impacted the card holder’s bank account/card statement and totaled a substantially higher dollar amount.)
Even Le Progrès referred to the fraud in a casual manner. The newspaper called the scam a “small trade with friends.” Nevertheless, both suspects were arrested on fraud charges. The partners will see a judge at their court appearance in February 2018.