At least $15 million was stolen via online infiltration of 15 financial companies -- including JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Citigroup (C), E*Trade (ETFC), PayPal (EBAY), TIAA-CREF, and TD Ameritrade (AMTD) -- overly a nearly two-year period. The perpetrators of the scheme were a group of hackers and identity thieves led by two Ukrainian nationals, according to authorities. Eight men have been charged, and four are in custody, the LA Times reports.
"Cybercriminals penetrated some of our most trusted financial institutions as part of a global scheme that stole money and identities from people in the United States," said New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman in a statement. The criminal complaint against the men alleges that they moved money from online accounts onto prepaid debit cards, then used the cards to withdraw cash from ATMs or make purchases throughout the United States. According to the LA Times, "Much of the money that was cashed out was wired to the two leaders."
One of those leaders is said to be Oleksiy Sharapka, a 33-year-old from Kiev who previously served a 102-month prison sentence for leading a similar conspiracy, after which he was deported from Massachusetts. Sharapka was allegedly working with Leonid "Lenny" Yanovitsky, 38, also of Kiev. According to The Boston Globe, two Bay State men have been arrested and are thought to have been "footmen in [the] scheme". A third Massachusetts man who was charged is still at large. The other suspects are from Brooklyn and Atlanta.
The other institutions that were hacked are Aon Hewitt, Automated Data Processing, Electronic Payments, Fundtech Holdings, iPayment, Nordstrom Bank, USAA, Veracity Payment Solutions and the Defense Department's Defense Finance and Accounting Service. According to an amended criminal complaint filed on Thursday, Sharapka & co. illegally obtained the login credentials of more than 130 ADP customers, which they used to access accounts and transfer $4 million. At least 40 Chase accounts were compromised, and $60,000 stolen, through similar means.
This is the second revelation in recent weeks about an international crime ring hacking bank accounts for millions. And while there's not much you can do regarding banks' internal safeguards, you can certainly take some precautions to reduce the odds that you personally will be a victim of hacking. Check out the gallery below for some tips: