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Black markets: the sale and purchase of stolen credit card details online

How and why are credit card details sold online? In this article, Dr Dylan Clarke discusses the business of online credit card fraud.
© Newcastle University
Payment fraud has increasingly become a professional and highly specialised business enterprise, with criminal organisations selling large lists of credit card details and (in some cases) guaranteeing the quality of their product.
The traditional criminal who steals credit card details and then uses these details to commit fraud is becoming less common. Instead, it is usual for criminals to specialise in one stage of fraud and outsource the other stages.
  • One group may steal credit card details and sell these details online, using anonymous markets. Market prices will be relatively low per card, but the seller is guaranteed a payment regardless of whether fraud succeeds against that card.
  • Other groups will specialise in monetising card details in different ways. Some groups will buy goods with the card details and then sell these goods. Some will make payments as part of larger frauds, and some people will simply buy card details as a cheap way to obtain expensive goods and services for themselves.
  • Card details can be sold online in a way that is relatively safe for both the buyers and sellers. The use of anonymity services and anonymous payment methods like Bitcoin (we will explore this in more detail later this week) can result in transactions where even the buyer and seller are unaware of each other’s real identity.
Criminal groups target particular specialisms within the stolen credit card details market. Some groups may deal in cards from particular countries, or may advertise that their card details have a high conversion rate due to the groups from which they are stolen. Card details may also be made more attractive by bundling them with additional personal information about the card owner.

What is it worth?

British card details have been found for sale at prices as low as £98 per hundred cards. In more lucrative niche markets, the cost is as high as £47 per card. US card details have typically been found to be available at cheaper prices then British, European, Australian or Canadian card details. These price differences may be related both to the relative difficulty of using the card details and the relative difficulty of obtaining them.
© Newcastle University
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