Miami Street Gangs Feed Off Russian Hackers

For gangs, identity theft is an easy way to raise money, and Russian criminals are making it easy
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 13, 2022 2:15 PM CDT
Russian Cybercriminals and Miami Gangs Find Synergy

"Fraud is the new dope." So says Armando Aguilar of the Miami Police, per a recent report by Thomas Brewster for Forbes about links between Miami street gangs and Russian cybercriminals. Gangs have always seen identity theft as a low-risk funding source. Crips from the East Coast to the West Coast were arrested for identity-related fraud in 2008, the Los Angeles Times reported at the time, and in 2016, reported the Wall Street Journal eight years later. In those days, they engaged in relatively low-tech methods like passing fake checks or capturing PINs with false ATM keypads. The internet has evolved since then, and so has cybercrime. Russian criminal networks now dominate the landscape, and they have millions and billions of data points to sell. As Brewster writes, "It's possible to draw a line from Russian cybercrime to US street gang killings and fraud."

Brewster points to cases in which members of various violent Miami gangs were arrested with social security numbers, account numbers, and login credentials. One gang member had an iCloud file labeled "I’m rich b----" with over 7,600 pages of personal data. Evidence suggests they use small-scale fraud as a side-hustle to buy guns and finance other criminal activities. Thus, the line between Russia and gang violence. The arrangement is certainly a boon to Russian hackers. One of the largest enterprises, Blackpass, possesses billions of data points, which it sells for between $1 and $5 apiece. Brewster finds the legal system lacks the will to prosecute all the cases, despite mounds of evidence, complete with social media posts in which gangs brag about their exploits: "Current and former police officers say there’s often not much of an appetite to jail gangsters for fraud, largely because single frauds aren’t big enough, even if the overall cost is significant." If it’s under $100,000, it’s not worth the trouble, claimed one official. (Read the full piece.)

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