Thanks to JD in Michigan I learned of this crazy scheme. Evidently the bad guys use stolen credit cards to order merchandise online then go to the store to pick it up using counterfeit IDs and credit cards. According to this story in the Muskegon Chronicle the police pulled a van over that was loaded up with plasma TV's and other goodies. The two guys collecting the stuff had Russian sounding names.
This is hard work crime. Last weekend I ordered a new Linksys AP at CompUSA online and picked it up in this manner. The online store does *not* ding your credit card, you have to pay for it in the store with the same credit card. So if you have a usable physical credit card why go through these hoops to get merchandise that you have to sell on the "black market" (since when is eBay a black market anyway?)
Well, I guess that it is easier to shop online. Especially if the mastermind has some ideas for what he can move quickly he can check resell prices on eBay and order up similar merchandise at CompUSA.com and have fairly low level criminals picking up and delivering the goods. Besides do you know how cold it was in Muskegon this week?
Better to have Vlad and Stan doing the heavy lifting while the cybercriminal can be snug and warm munching on Cheetos back at home base.
Let's address this "links to organized crime" thing. Wikipedia says
Organized crime is crime carried out systematically by formal criminal organizations.
OK, I agree that anytime two or more criminals act together they are coordinating their actions and if they do the same thing twice they are being "systematic", but are they "formal?" Do they have fixed membership with initiation rites? Do they have a hierarchy of boss-flunky-executioner? Is money handled in an organized way? Does it flow into the gang's coffers to be redistributed later?
Whenever anyone raises the specter of organized crime they evoke images of tough guys in suits and cigars that make a career out of running their criminal operations. I submit that most "organized" cybercrime is carried out by very loose communities of people that have common interests: making money and Cadillac Escalades.
Sure in this Muskegon case a bunch of credit card thieves figured out a way to take advantage of bricks-and-clicks commerce to convert stolen credit cards to cash. But is it a global ring backed by the Russian Mafia?
I highly doubt it.