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Brothers In U.K. Convicted In Massive Credit Card Data Scam

Identity theft operation highlights need to protect card data at the source, experts say
Three brothers in the U.K. yesterday were sentenced to prison for cloning credit cards using stolen identity data and stealing PIN numbers from ATMs.

Ahmed Charmaga, 25, Mahmoud Charmaga, 23, and Mohammed Charmaga, 28, were running their illegal operation from an office building in Brent, according to news reports. When officers from the Metropolitan Police raided the place, back in November 2008, they found 600 counterfeit credit cards, as well as the equipment that was used to create them.

Mahmoud Charmaga was arrested while he was entering the building during the search. The police found further evidence of credit card fraud at his house, in a room used by his brother, Mohammed, fwhere they recovered a laptop and documents.

Card skimmers, which are used to capture credit card information from magnetic stripes, as well as ATM keypads modified to steal PIN numbers, were also found in the office, which was rented under a false identity. Police traced the fake name to Ahmed Charmaga, who was already serving a prison sentence of two years.

According to the investigators, the fake cards were used to directly withdraw money from ATMs, buy expensive goods such as designer clothes and aftershave, or pay at 24-hours, self-service petrol stations. From the evidence they found, police estimate that an additional financial loss of $3.2 million was prevented by the arrest.

Mahmoud Charmaga received five years of prison time, Mohammed Charmaga got two and eight months, while their already jailed brother, Ahmed Charmaga, got an additional four and a half years to his previous sentence.

Michael Fulbrook, director of UK and Ireland operations at security vendor Cyber-Ark, said the conviction highlights the need for companies to protect data at the source. Stopping card fraud at the company level is now a pre-requisite of effective security at any company that accepts plastic payments, he said.

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