STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
We're also tracking a story that federal authorities call one of the biggest credit card fraud rings in U.S. history. Eighteen people are alleged to have created an elaborate web of fake identities and sham companies to steal hundreds of millions of dollars.
NPR's Dan Bobkoff has more.
DAN BOBKOFF, BYLINE: To give you a sense of the scale of this fraud, let's start with some numbers. The fraud lasted at least six years. The 18 people allegedly created 7,000 fake identities. They used these to open 25,000 credit cards. And, all told, they stole at least $200 million from credit card companies.
Paul Fishman is the U.S. attorney for the district of New Jersey.
PAUL FISHMAN: It was an extraordinarily sophisticated scheme at every level.
BOBKOFF: Elaborate is an understatement. Fishman says the defendants created false identities, complete with things like utility bills. At first, the fraudsters would boost the credit scores of the of the fake names by responsibly making payments on the cards. Then, they'd make fraudulent purchases through dozens of sham companies or took out large loans on the cards.
FISHMAN: Schemes of this magnitude are pretty breathtaking.
BOBKOFF: Credit card companies took the direct hit, but experts say the losses could be passed onto consumers, in the form of higher interest rates.
Bill Kresse heads Saint Xavier University's Center for the Study of Fraud and Corruption. He says this case shows a breakdown of the system.
BILL KRESSE: There are only so many credit card companies and banks and issuers, you would think at some point someone would have picked up the pattern of all these phony transactions.
BOBKOFF: But before authorities put a stop to it, the ring managed to send millions to eight countries including Pakistan, Romania, India and Japan. And, many profited nicely at home with fancy cars and electronics. Prosecutors say one suspect had $68,000 in his oven.
Dan Bobkoff, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.