The Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested a man Monday morning who, authorities say, could be responsible for one of most prolific identity theft cases in Hawaii’s history, using information he bought on the cyber black market.
FBI agents arrested Steven Zubler, 34, at around 6:30 a.m. at his Waikiki apartment. According to the criminal complaint, he’s charged with “access device fraud,” which deals with credit card fraud.
Authorities say he purchased information needed to obtain credit cards from places like Russia, China, and Vietnam in an elaborate scheme that involved online credit card applications, temporary mail forwarding requests, burner phones, retail mail drops, and shopping sprees.
The FBI says more than 40 people, including some in Hawaii, had their personal information stolen and sold. Authorities say that information ended up in the hands of Zubler.
“There’s a burgeoning underground economy in identities of people here in the United States — names, addresses, Social Security numbers, and dates of birth that are bought and sold on we call it a cyber black market out there,” said special agent Tom Simon.
Authorities say Zubler obtained credit cards, and used change-of-address forms to get them sent to him in the mail “in such a way that the victims didn’t even know what happened,” Simon said.
He racked up more than $100,000 in fraudulent credit card activity, authorities allege.
In court Monday, attorneys for the prosecution outlined how they’ll be able to prove Zubler opened up more than 80 bank accounts with people’s stolen personal information.
So what are banks are doing to protect you from this type of scam?
Edward Pei of the Hawaii Bankers Association says steps are being taken. “Banks are certainly a lot more careful and diligent about reviewing new applications,” he told KHON2. “They’re also very careful about even change-of-address requests.”
Pei also said you should diligently check your accounts to make sure there’s no suspicious activity.
Simon echoed that same advice: “These days now with the hackers out there and the amount of information available for all of us, there’s not a whole lot I can recommend to make sure this doesn’t happen other than continuous monitoring of your own credit on the accounts that are out there in your name.”
If you ever find yourself a victim of credit card fraud, the Federal Trade Commission offers these important tips.