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UK Arrests Man Accused of Organizing Money 'mules'

U.K. police arrested a 34-year-old man on Monday on suspicion of creating counterfeit credit cards and organizing a network of people involved in money laundering, officials said.

Authorities from the Metropolitan Police's Police Central e-crime Unit also seized data and equipment believed to be used to created fraudulent payment cards, including blank dummy cards with magnetic strips, during a raid Monday morning in east London.

The man, whose name was not made public, is also accused of organizing money "mules" -- people recruited to accept stolen funds and transfer them to other bank accounts for a small share of the amount.

The latest action follows a spate of arrests in the U.K., U.S. and Ukraine in one of the largest coordinated computer crime actions by law enforcement.

Last month, the U.K. arrested 11 Eastern Europeans allegedly involved in money laundering related to the Zeus online banking malware. U.S. officials charged 92 people with crimes related to Zeus and Ukrainian authorities detained five people.

Metropolitan Police officials were not immediately available to confirm if the man was involved in Zeus-related activities.

Fake payment cards remain a problem. Fraudsters attach a special device to ATMs that record the payment card details contained on the magnetic strips on the back of the card, known as a skimming attack.

Cards issued throughout Europe have a microchip that confirms the card's PIN (Personal Identification Number). A clone card without the microchip will usually not work in the machine, but criminals then export the cards to places such as the United States where the machines do not verify the chip and cash can be withdrawn.

European banks reported a record number of skimming attacks in the first half of this year, according to the European ATM Security Team (EAST), a nonprofit group composed of national payment organizations, financial institutions and law enforcement.

Losses due to skimming fell slightly, however, indicating that criminals are having to work harder for less gain due to security improvement in the payment cards, called EMV (Europay, MasterCard, Visa) or chip-and-PIN cards. Skimming losses were €143.5 million (US$202.1 million) for the first half of this year, EAST said.

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com

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