Two Romanians, described as “international computer hackers” by the United States Justice Department, have been extradited to the United States to face hacking and fraud charges.
Teodor Laurentiu Costea, 41, and Robert Codrut Dumitrescu, 40, are accused of using computers in the Atlanta, Georgia, area to send “thousands of automated telephone calls and text messages” to victims in the area, falsely representing themselves as financial institutions. The targets were then provided a phone number and told to call to resolve issues with their bank accounts, according to the DOJ.
When the victims called, the agency said, they were “prompted by interactive voice response software to enter their bank account numbers, PINs, and full or partial Social Security numbers”.
The scheme allegedly took place between 2011 and 2014.
The US government alleges that information related to these accounts – which it says were either sold or used to commit fraud – was discovered on compromised computers and later accessed by Costa and Dumitrescu.
“At the time of his arrest in Romania, Costea possessed 36,051 fraudulently obtained financial account numbers,” said the DOJ, which estimated the financial losses from the scheme at over $US18 million ($24 million).
A third Romanian man, Cosmin Draghici, 28, is reportedly in custody in Romania, awaiting extradition to the US (Draghici is accused of having aided in the sale or use of the stolen information.)
“While in Romania, the defendants allegedly targeted victims throughout the US, including in the North District of Georgia, stealing personal information and possibly causing millions of dollars in losses,” US Attorney Byung J. Pak said.
The US hopes the extraditions will serve as a message to cybercriminals worldwide: “Our message to the victims of cyber fraud is that the FBI won’t let geographic boundaries stop us from pursuing and prosecuting the persons who cause them tremendous financial pain,” FBI Special Agent in Charge David LeValley said in a statement.