credit cardsRui Vieira/PA Wire/Press Association Images

The Serious Organised Crime unit (SOCA) is celebrating a major step in the halting of ID theft today, after raids in countries around the world brought down 36 websites which had been selling stolen credit card details.

So does that mean we're safe?

The crime

The British unit worked with the FBI and US Department of Justice to carry out a series of raids across the world. It was the culmination of an operation that had been running for two years, and closed down 36 websites dedicated to the business of ID fraud.

For years cyber criminals have been stealing large volumes of financial information from bank account details to credit and debit card information, and selling them in bulk to a growing market of online fraudsters.


Over the last 18 months, the unit said they had increasingly seen the criminals adopt e-commerce platforms, where information could be sold in bulk for as little as £2 each. The emergence of automated vending carts has enabled criminal groups to sell data in larger volumes and more quickly than they were previously able to do.

The operation

During the two-year investigation, SOCA monitored these sites, recovered over 2.5 million items of compromised personal and financial information, and passed it to the relevant financial institutions to help prevent potential fraud taking place against the accounts. It says it has prevented around £500 million in fraud as a result.

Lee Miles, Head of Cyber Operations for SOCA said: "Our activities have saved business, online retailers and financial institutions potential fraud losses estimated at more than half a billion pounds, and at the same time protected thousands of individuals from the distress caused by being a victim of fraud or identity crime."

The risks

Of course this is to be celebrated, but it is the tip of the iceberg. Plenty of criminal gangs are still operating these sorts of websites, and your information is still up for grabs. And while the police are working to tackle the criminal gangs, it's essential that we take steps of our own.

The National Fraud Authority says at the very least we should take these precautions:
  • Don't throw out anything with your name, address or financial details without shredding it first.
  • Check your bank and credit card statements carefully and report anything suspicious to the financial institution concerned.
  • If you're expecting a statement and it doesn't arrive, tell your bank or credit card company.
  • Get regular copies of your credit report from a credit reference agency.
  • Make sure your computer has up to date anti virus software installed.
  • Make sure you use all the privacy settings available on social networking sites - but don't put too much personal information up there.
  • If you move house, always get Royal Mail to redirect your post.
  • Don't ignore bills, invoices or receipts for things you haven't bought or services you haven't asked for - contact the company immediately.
  • When you register to vote, tick the box to say you don't want to be included in the edited electoral register - that means your details can't be sold on.
More stories