Cybercrime is what has led U.S. security firms to set their eyes on Romania, after it’s been revealed that there is an epidemic of cybercrime going on in small towns across the country. The revelation has labeled Romania as a “global center” for cybercrime in the U.S. amongst observers.
In Ramnicu Valcea, Romania, a 22 year old student said that everyone in their high school took part in criminal activities targeting online shoppers in the United States. Across the ocean, Romanian cyber criminals would put on sale products that did not exist, swindling thousands from consumers all across the country.
Common products that are “for sale” but don’t actually exist include large items like cars or TVs. Other cybercrime schemes involve convincing someone to share their personal financial information to someone they think it a legitimate client looking to give them a deal on a product.
The “global center” for cybercrime and internet scams has alarmed observers who have seen a dramatic increase over the past decade in cybercrime. Just within the past month alone, Target, one of America’s largest retailers fell victim to a cyber hack that left vulnerable as many as 110 million customers’ credit card data and personal information.
On Sunday Reuters reported that Neiman Marcus, another huge retailer, has also had their security breached following this holiday season. U.S. security firms are looking towards Eastern Europe, specifically Romania, where a number of these crimes seem to have originated from.
Looking for a location for their latest cybercrime program office, the Council of Europe, an entity which facilitates cooperation between European countries, has chosen the Romanian capital of Bucharest.
Romania’s President Traian Basescu has been working with the European Council on strengthening the cybercrime task force. In a statement President Basescu said that the European Union lost a total of $290 billion euros as a result of cybercrime.
The 22 year old cyber hacker Alina went on to say that while she would normally feel bad robbing a person, it is hard to feel empathy towards a faceless victim thousands of miles away. Alina, the 22 year old Romanian who said she took part in the illegal cybercrime, says she stopped when she finally confessed to her mother about her activities. Her mother’s disapproval was enough for her to drop her cyber hacking.
Romania, a country of about 20 million people, boasting a sizable youth population, with more than a quarter of the population under the age of 25, has a ripe base for technologically savvy teenagers who have little to lose by taking part in the illegal cyber trade. Often these cases are hard to litigate due to the sophistication the hackers say Romanian prosecutors.
Those who take part in the criminal activity say they can make what most average Romanian’s make in a year after just a few scams, with the average income in Romania equivalent to less than $14,000 (USD). The U.S. Embassy in Bucharest estimates that over $1 billion a year is stolen from American consumers via online scams.
Back in May of 2013, 3 Romanian nationals, Cristea Mircea, 30, Ion Pieptea, 36, and Nicolae Simion, 37, were caught taking part in a multimillion dollar cyber fraud ring that specifically targeted U.S. consumers. They were extradited by the U.S. Justice Department after it was discovered they were selling “non-existent” cars, boats and motorcycles. The vehicles were priced at standard retail value, and shoppers were provided fraudulent certificates of title. Payments made through Amazon and Paypal were directly deposited into their accounts, and the trio ended up making off with more than $2 million.
U.S. security firms have located and exposed a number of illegal cybercrime operations operating out of Romania.
With education optional for Romanians in English, young con artists have become fluent in the language, giving them an edge over other cyber fraud scams around the world. U.S. security firms say they will keep their eye Romania, the “global center” for cybercrime in the coming months to hopefully clamp down on the scammer’s operations.
by John Amaruso