Huge ATM Skimming Case ProgressesAlleged Ring Leader Indicted; Global Collaboration Key
The arrest, extradition and indictment of a Romanian who's alleged to have orchestrated one of the biggest ATM skimming rings in the U.S. illustrates how collaboration among international authorities is working to more swiftly bring global cybercrime leaders to justice (see Charges in ATM Skimming Scheme).
But this week's indictment of Marius Vintila is just a blip on the cyberthreat radar, says financial fraud analyst Al Pascual of the consultancy Javelin Strategy & Research. Much more still needs to be done to ensure global law enforcement authorities are catching cybercriminals sooner, and prosecuting them within shorter windows of time, he adds.
"The indictment is a step in the right direction, but much more is needed in order to turn the tide," Pascual says.
Enhanced cross-border cyber-intelligence sharing is key to cracking down on fraud, says Andrew Komarov of threat intelligence firm IntelCrawler. By working with experts who focus on cyberthreat sharing, law enforcement agencies are more readily able to track criminals, he says.
"We can confirm that Romanian cybercriminals are very well known in ATM skimming, and most of the manufactures of skimmers are located there," Komarov says. "It is quite fast to transfer devices to the EU [European Union], and their services are pretty cheap."
More Anti-Fraud Tech Needed
Despite ramped-up efforts by law enforcement, however, the U.S. will continue to be a target for these types of attacks, because of its continued reliance on easily skimmed magnetic-stripe payment cards, Pascual says.
"This indictment is very encouraging, but it is much like plugging a leaky dam when it really needs to be replaced," he says. "The continued reliance on the mag-stripe has made the U.S. a target for foreign crime rings for the past several years. As tempting a target as the U.S. is, I don't expect this indictment to dissuade others from engaging in similar skimming attempts."
Without widespread adoption of more secure chip cards using EMV, which stands for the Europay, MasterCard, Visa standard, law enforcement will be fighting an uphill battle, Pascual argues. "We would need a lot more arrests and seriously longer terms for those convicted to slow things down," he says.
Skimming Case Details
Vintila, also known as Dan Girneata, was indicted Feb. 18 by a federal grand jury. He faces charges of bank fraud, identity theft and possession of counterfeit cards and equipment to manufacture those counterfeit cards. If convicted on all counts, he could be sentenced to up to 69 years in prison.
Vintila is scheduled to appear at a Newark federal court on Feb. 26 to enter his plea.
Earlier this month, Vintila made an initial appearance at a federal court following his extradition from Sweden, where he was arrested Sept. 24. Vintila fled the U.S. in July 2013 to avoid arrest.
Federal prosecutors allege that between June 2012 and July 2013, Vintila, who was living in New Jersey at the time of the attacks, along with 12 co-conspirators who have also been arrested, defrauded Wells Fargo, Citibank, TD Bank and multiple other banking institutions in New Jersey, New York and Florida out of at least $5 million.
Vintila and his conspirators allegedly installed skimmers and pinhole cameras at bank ATMs and ATM vestibules to steal thousands of customer bank account numbers and PINs, federal prosecutors say. The devices, which were installed on multiple ATMs in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Florida, were used to steal thousands of bank accounts numbers and personal identification numbers, prosecutors say. Counterfeit ATM cards were then created and used to withdraw millions of dollars from customers' bank accounts.