An underground service that is selling credit and debit card accounts stolen in a recent data breach at retail giant Target has stocked its virtual shelves with a new product: Hundreds of thousands of cards issued by non-U.S. banks that were used at Target across the United States during the retailer’s 19-day data breach. It’s not clear how quickly the non-U.S. cards are selling, but they seem to be fetching a much higher price than those issued by U.S. banks.
On Dec. 20, this blog published a story about the “card shop” rescator[dot]la. That piece explained how two different banks — a small, community bank and a large, top-10 bank — had bought back their customers’ stolen cards from the fraud service and discovered that all of the purchased cards had been used at Target during the breach timeframe. The shop was selling data stolen from the magnetic stripe of each card, which thieves can re-encode onto new, counterfeit cards and use to go shopping in bricks-and-mortar stores for items than can easily be fenced or resold.
As I wrote in that story, a key feature of this particular shop is that each card is assigned to a particular “base.” This term is underground slang that refers to an arbitrary code word chosen to describe all of the cards stolen from a specific merchant. In this case, my source at the big bank had said all of the cards his team purchased from this card shop that matched Target’s N0v. 27 – Dec. 15 breach window bore the base name Tortuga, which is Spanish for “tortoise” or “turtle” (also an island in the Caribbean long associated with pirates). The small bank similarly found that all of the cards it purchased from the card shop also bore the Tortuga base name, and all had been used at Target.
On Friday, the proprietor of this card shop announced the availability of a new base — “Barbarossa” — which consists of more than 330,000 debit and credit cards issued by banks in Europe, Asia, Latin America and Canada [side note: one Russian expert I spoke with said Barbarossa was probably a reference to Operation Barbarossa, the code name for Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II].
According to one large bank in the U.S. that purchased a sampling of cards across several countries — all of the cards in the Barbarossa base also were used at Target during the breach timeframe.
As with cards sold under the Tortuga base, debit and credit cards for sale as part of the Barbarossa base list the country of origin for the issuing bank, and then directly underneath include the state, city and ZIP code of the Target store from which the card numbers were stolen.
When I first became aware that this card shop was selling only cards stolen from Target stores, I noticed a discussion on a related crime forum wherein customers of this shop seemed very enthusiastic about this ZIP code feature. I couldn’t figure out what the big deal was: I’d assumed the state, city and ZIP described the bank that issued the card.
Later, I learned from a fraud expert that this feature is included because it allows customers of the shop to buy cards issued to cardholders that live nearby. This lets crooks who want to use the cards for in-store fraud avoid any knee-jerk fraud defenses in which a financial institution might block transactions that occur outside the legitimate cardholder’s immediate geographic region.
The cards for sale in the Barbarossa base vary widely in price from $23.62 per card to as high as $135 per card. The prices seem to be influenced by a number of factors, including the issuing bank, the type of card (debit or credit), how soon the card expires, and whether the card bears a special notation that often indicates a higher credit limit, such as a Platinum card.
The prices also appear to be influenced partly by how rare it is to find cards for a specific bank available on the black market. The highest-priced cards I found for sale were issued by banks in Singapore, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates.