If you can’t beat ’em, hire ’em

Now Thomas is telling the story of his work during this period. It’s a tale that provides a rare glimpse of the thriving international computer underground of high and low-tech thieves and swindlers whose crimes cost millions each year. It also illuminates the rarely seen world of federal law enforcement’s war against these organized criminals, and the moral and ethical tradeoffs sworn agents make in pursuing their mission — providing crooks with an electronic marketplace where they can congregate and conduct their ignominious business anonymously. Even allowing some crimes to go unpunished.The full scope of the problem is hard to judge, but nonetheless staggering. U.S. banks lost $546 million to debit card fraud in 2004, according to banking research firm Dove Consulting, and credit card fraud losses were estimated to be about $3.8 billion globally in 2003 according to The Nilson Report. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that 10 million Americans are victims of identity theft each year. The financial impact of identity theft remains untold….TheGrifters was a members-only “carding” site that Thomas launched in December 2003, eight months after beginning his work for the FBI. The goal of the site was to attract identity and bank thieves. It was the kind of site authorities called a “build it and they will come” site. And they did.

Read I Was a Cybercrook for the FBI and Crime Boards Come Crashing Down from WIRED

Update: The full, three-part, piece on David Thomas  (pdf)

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