The U.S. Secret Service has publicized an ongoing undercover operation targeting people who steal personal information and create malicious software to sell it in online forums.
Dubbed Operation Rolling Stone, the investigation has led to 21 arrests in the past three months, including seven on Tuesday, the Secret Service said in a news release.
Most of the charges are related to the alleged culprits using the internet to commit credit card fraud. Some of the arrests are linked to a recent nationwide rash of fraudulent debit card withdrawals.
The operation "is designed to disrupt activity on criminal web forums, where the suspects openly engage in the sale of stolen and compromised credit card information, false identity documents and malicious software that enables criminals to obtain access to victims' computers."
"Cybercrime has evolved significantly over the last two years, from Dumpster diving and credit card skimming to full-fledged online bazaars full of stolen personal and financial information," said Assistant Director Brian Nagel of the Secret Service's Office of Investigations. "We continue to adapt our investigative techniques to progressively combat emerging threats to our nation's financial institutions."
One of those arrested Tuesday was Benjamin W. Pinkston, a student at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. He was charged with "various crimes involving online identity theft," such as conspiracy and the illegal possession of identification documents, several media outlets reported this week.