Suspects charged in global phishing schemes

Thirty-eight people were charged with stealing names, social security numbers, credit card data and other personal information from unsuspecting internet users as part of a global crime ring, an Associated Press report said.

The Romanian-based phishing scams sought to rip off thousands of consumers and hundreds of financial institutions, according to indictments unsealed in Los Angeles and New Haven, Connecticut, US, the report said.

The two related cases marked the latest example of what the Justice Department describes as a growing worldwide threat posed by organized crime.

'International organized crime poses a serious threat not only to the United States and Romania, but to all nations,' Deputy Attorney General Mark R. Filip said in a statement from Bucharest, where he announced the charges.

'Criminals who exploit the power and convenience of the internet do not recognize national borders; therefore our efforts to prevent their attacks cannot end at our borders either.'

The practice known as phishing typically involves sending fraudulent e-mails that include links directing recipients to fake web sites where they are asked to input sensitive data.

More than half of the people charged cases are Romanian, although the alleged scam also operated from the US, Canada, Portugal and Pakistan. The cases were linked by two Romanians who participated in both schemes, authorities said.