2 arrested at Texas border linked to Target credit card fraud - Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

2 arrested at Texas border linked to Target breach, credit card fraud

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Mugshots of suspects Mary Carmen Garcia and Daniel Guardiola Dominguez next to a table of 100 confiscated credit cards (City of McAllen photo) Mugshots of suspects Mary Carmen Garcia and Daniel Guardiola Dominguez next to a table of 100 confiscated credit cards (City of McAllen photo)
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McALLEN, Texas -

Police in South Texas arrested two people trying to enter the U.S. from Mexico who may be connected to the massive data breach at Target.

27-year-old Mary Carmen Garcia and 28-year-old Daniel Guardiola Dominguez, both of Monterrey, Mexico, were arrested Sunday at the Anzalduas International Bridge on fraud charges. The duo had 96 fraudulent credit cards with them when they tried to re-enter the U.S., according to officials.

Police said the cards the two possessed bore the names of Mexican banks, but the numbers matched account information of South Texas residents affected by the Target data breach. Police said many of the cards had been used to buy tens of thousands of dollars' worth of merchandise from national retail outlets in the area, including Best Buy, Wal-Mart and Toys 'R' Us.

Investigators are working to determine whether Garcia and Dominguez are involved in organized crime in Mexico, but McAllen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez let slip that they appeared to have been dealing directly with the hackers and that the stolen account information appears to have been divvied up and sold off regionally -- right down to the ZIP code.

"They're obviously selling the data sets by region," Rodriguez said.

In the days following the breach, the stolen data began to appear on the black market with account information selling for a premium price of more than $100 per card. Investigators believe the motivation behind keeping the credit card data tailored to specific regions is to avoid raising the suspicion of card companies.

Rodriguez told The Monitor newspaper that local police began working with the U.S. Secret Service after a number of local retailers noticed fraudulent purchases on Jan. 12.

The Secret Service confirmed the data on the cards Garcia and Dominguez possessed could be traced back to the Target Data breach, and they used videos taken from the area to identify two people in a car as their suspects. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement helped confirm the suspects identities and crafted the warrants last week in anticipation of their return.

Also at the end of last week, several security analysts reported they had linked the malware that infiltrated the point-of-sale devices in Target stores to Russia. Rodriguez also alluded to a link with Russia and Eastern Europe, but offered few details other than to say Garcia and Dominguez will likely face federal charges.

Investigators focusing on the Target breach said they believe Garcia and Dominguez were involved in both the acquisition of the data and the creation of fraudulent cards; however, they concede that the two are likely part of a much broader plot.

According to Rodriguez, the two carried out most of their shopping sprees on Sundays, and told the Associated Press that the duo would have needed an "army" to move all the electronics and goods they bought.

Texas authorities are familiar with investigating large-scale data thefts involving magnetic strips, including one scheme where investigators seized machines used to upload information to the magnetic strip instead of the "RAM scrape" approach employed in the latest heist.

Last week, multiple sources reported the stolen data that was pulled from the magnetic strip of an estimated 40 million credit and debit cards, as well as personal information belonging to 70 million other customers, was sent to an internal server at Target that uploaded 11 gigabytes of data over two weeks.

The lines of code found in by detectives also seem to link back to a well-known hacker in Ukraine who sells the malware for as low as $2,300. According to some reports, the hacker who goes by 'Rescator' may still be a teenager.

WHAT CAN CONSUMERS DO?

Argos Risk is a company that focuses on business tech security, but founder and chairman of the board Steven Foster told Fox 9 News the advice he gives clients is the similar to what he would recommend for customers who use credit and debit cards regularly.

"Every business, as we can see with Target, is vulnerable," he warned.

First, Foster urges everyone to keep a watchful eye out for any unusual activity because even a small charge could be a sign of trouble.

"We've seen them run through a dollar just to see if they have an active and live account," he explained.

Foster also recommends anyone with a debit card change their PIN code and consider setting a daily charge or transaction limit.

Target also sent out an e-mail offering free credit monitoring for a year via Experian, a credit bureau that was recently fooled into selling customer information to a Vietnamese identity theft ring. What's even more troubling about the e-mail from Target, however, is that it comes from a strange address and contains links that could make it appear like a phishing attempt.

Yet, Foster says a year of monitoring may not even be enough. Even though the duo arrested over the weekend may have struck fast, others could be laying low and waiting for victims to let their guard down.

"You could wait 18 months before you have some activity on stolen identity," Foster said. "In this case, with the large number, it could be 18 or 24 months that we're dealing with the fallout from something like this."

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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