How do fraudsters “cash out” stolen credit card data? Increasingly, they are selling in-demand but underpriced products on eBay that they don’t yet own. Once the auction is over, the auction fraudster uses stolen credit card data to buy the merchandise from an e-commerce store and have it shipped to the auction winner. Because the auction winners actually get what they bid on and unwittingly pay the fraudster, very often the only party left to dispute the charge is the legitimate cardholder.
So-called “triangulation fraud” — scammers using stolen cards to buy merchandise won at auction by other eBay members — is not a new scam. But it’s a crime that’s getting more sophisticated and automated, at least according to a victim retailer who reached out to KrebsOnSecurity recently after he was walloped in one such fraud scheme.
The victim company — which spoke on condition of anonymity — has a fairly strong e-commerce presence, and is growing rapidly. For the past two years, it was among the Top 500 online retailers as ranked by InternetRetailer.com.
The company was hit with over 40 orders across three weeks for products that later traced back to stolen credit card data. The victimized retailer said it was able to stop a few of the fraudulent transactions before the items shipped, but most of the sales were losses that the victim firm had to absorb.
The scheme works like this: An auction fraudster sets up one (or multiple) eBay accounts and sells legitimate products. A customer buys the item from the seller (fraudster) on eBay and the money gets deposited in the fraudster’s PayPal account.
The fraudster then takes the eBay order information to another online retailer which sells the same item, buys the item using stolen credit card data, and has the item shipped to the address of the eBay customer that is expecting the item. The fraudster then walks away with the money.
One reason this scheme is so sneaky is that the eBay customers are happy because they got their product, so they never complain or question the company that sent them the product. For the retailer, the order looks normal: The customer contact info in the order form is partially accurate: It has the customer’s correct shipping address and name, but may list a phone number that goes somewhere else — perhaps to a voicemail owned and controlled by the fraudster.
“For the retailer who ships thousands of orders every day, this fraudulent activity really doesn’t raise any red flags,” my source — we’ll call him “Bill,” — told me. “The only way they eventually find out is with a sophisticated fraud screening program, or when the ‘chargeback’ from Visa or MasterCard finally comes to them from the owner of the stolen card.”
In an emailed statement, eBay said the use of stolen or fraudulent credit card numbers to purchase goods on eBay is by no means unique to eBay.
“We believe collaboration and cooperation is the best way to combat fraud and organized retail crime of this nature, working in partnership with retailers and law enforcement,” wrote Ryan Moore, eBay’s senior manager of global corporate affairs. Detecting this type of fraud, Moore said, “relies heavily on the tools that merchants use themselves, which includes understanding their customers and implementing the correct credit card authorization protocols.”
Moore declined to discuss the technology and approaches the eBay uses to fight triangulation fraud — saying eBay doesn’t want tip its hand to cybercriminals. But he said the company uses internal tools and risk models to identify suspicious activity on its platform, and that it trains hundreds of retailers and law enforcement on various types of fraud, including triangulation fraud.
Moore pointed to one education campaign on eBay’s site, which adds another wrinkle to this fraud scheme: Very often the people listing the item for sale on eBay are existing, long-time eBay members with good standing who get recruited to sell items via work-at-home job scams. These schemes typically advertise that the seller gets to keep a significant cut of the sale price — typically 30 percent.
Interesting, the guy selling carded goods stolen from Bill’s company has been on eBay for more than a decade and has a near-perfect customer feedback score. That seller is not being referenced in this story because his feedback page directly links to transactions from Bill’s company. Continue reading →