Friday, February 5, 2010

Would Professor Moriarty have invented an eBay, a Paypal or a Craigslist?

Professor Moriarty was, of course, Sherlock Holmes' nemesis (or was it the other way around)? I ask the question in the title of this post because a much more modern criminal mastermind has just been sentenced. Here's the headline from the London Telegraph: Mastermind behind 'eBay for criminals' is facing jail

"Renukanth Subramaniam, from north London, established the website DarkMarket, which threatened every bank account and credit card holder in Britain and caused tens of millions of pounds of losses.
It was described as a "one-stop shop" for fraudsters buying and selling stolen details such as PIN numbers, account balances, answers to account security questions and passwords for social networking websites.

"The site even offered criminal users a secure payment system, training and advertising space to sell equipment used to clone bank and credit cards.
DarkMarket operated for almost three years as a “criminals only” forum, with more than 2,500 members at its peak, who could buy up to 10 credit card numbers along with other personal information for around £30.
It was shut down after a two-year global investigation in which undercover agents from the FBI and the Serious Organised Crime Agency infiltrated the site by posing as criminals.
A spokesman for Soca called it “one of the most pernicious online criminal websites in the world” and estimated that its victims lost tens of millions of pounds.
Officials said there was a code of “honour amongst thieves” on the site.
There was a secure payment system between criminals – described by Judge John Hillen as a "PayPal for criminals". "

See my earlier post: More on Darkmarket, the Craigslist of Crime

1 comment:

dWj said...

Top-down institutions interest me, but bottom-up social institutions interest me more. It doesn't really surprise me that there is “honour amongst thieves”; on one hand, I would be a bit wary of submitting my credit card (or other financial data from which to make a payment) to a site that sells stolen credit card numbers (am I just a customer, or am I now part of the wares?), but at least some of these people are likely to have more sympathy for each other than for the average innocent victim.

A lot of merchants I particularly trust are dealing in a lot of repeat business -- I'm thinking of the two and a half years in which I stopped by the same street-cart bagel vendor every morning. In this case, though, the ratio of the legitimate charge that could be placed on a card to the illegitimate charge seems small enough that I'm not sure "honest" dealing is subgame-perfect. I suppose word-of-mouth would reduce the necessary ratio -- I'm not seeking just repeat business from one guy, but from his friends, and their friends, too -- but I wouldn't be surprised if hardwired empathy for people in whom we see ourselves plays a role here as well.