$45 Million Stolen in Hours With Prepaid Cards

Celebrities from Justin Bieber to Kim Kardashian and even popular cartoon characters have been used to promote prepaid debit cards.

But here are some mascots you’re unlikely to see gracing prepaid plastic: the eight guys indicted last week as part of an international cybercrime ring that authorities say stole $45 million from thousands of ATMs around the world.

“The indictment and criminal complaints in the case offer a glimpse into what the authorities said was one of the most sophisticated and effective cybercrime attacks ever uncovered,” The New York Times says.

The alleged partners in crime were “cashing crews” for a group of hackers who broke into the system of an Indian card processing company that handles Visa and MasterCard prepaid debit cards. Computer security experts consider such companies less secure than financial institutions.

The hackers were able to remove the withdrawal limits from five accounts and give the crews access to them with magnetic stripe cards. They then used their cards to make withdrawals at tons of ATMs. In New York City alone, they hit more than 2,900 machines in 10 hours, authorities said.

“It was unclear to whom the hacked accounts belonged, and who might ultimately be responsible for the losses,” the Times says.

Protections provided for use of bank-issued debit cards and credit cards are not as strong for prepaid cards.

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