According to WWD, the Justice Department has charged 11 people with the theft of more than 40 million payment card numbers from retailers including TJ Maxx (TJX), DSW Inc. and Forever 21. The department’s investigation revealed an international operation of enormous scope and complexity tying together data security breaches at nine U.S. retailers that were previously thought to be unrelated. The TJX incident was initially discovered back in January 2007.
The alleged perpetrators were charged on Tuesday with fraud, identity theft and conspiracy in federal courts in Boston and San Diego. According to the indictments, the conspirators obtained the numbers by hacking into the wireless computer networks of various U.S. retailers and installing a type of software known as a packet sniffer to capture consumers’ data. The 11 people indicted include three U.S. citizens and citizens of at
least four other countries in Europe and Asia. Miami resident Albert
Gonzalez is alleged to be the plot’s mastermind.
“So far as we know, this is the single largest and most complex identity theft case ever charged in this country,” said Attorney General Michael Mukasey in Boston. “They used sophisticated computer hacking techniques, breaching security systems and installing programs that gathered enormous quantities of personal financial data, which they then allegedly sold to others or used themselves. And, in total, they caused widespread losses by banks, retailers and consumers.”
The ring targeted a wide range of retailers, including BJ’s Wholesale Club Inc., OfficeMax, Boston Market, Barnes & Noble and Sports Authority, as well as TJX, Forever 21 and DSW. It compromised information relating to 45.7 million credit and debit cards as well as the driver’s licenses and, in some cases, social security numbers of as many as 450,000 customers who returned items without a receipt, TJX said.
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