Officials call it a "brilliant" system because victims rarely complain for fear of being identified as a child porn purchaser.Authorities say an ongoing investigation centers around an east European crime ring that operates numerous child pornography Web sites.
When a person attempts to purchase access to the sites, they are directed to a bogus payment processor page and instructed to enter their credit card information, including CVC code and expiration date.
Investigators say the criminal ring uses the credit card information to purchase new child pornography domain names and ISP hosting spaces.
When victims discover the fraud, instead of reporting it to law enforcement, they typically just pay the charge and report the card lost or stolen, officials say. Targeting international child pornography and cybercrime rings has become a growing priority for U.S. law enforcement.
"Part of our work is to secure our nation's boundaries, and we see making the Internet safe as an important component of that," said Pat Reilly, spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.In a recent high-profile case, the leaders of a Belarus-based child pornography and money laundering enterprise were brought to justice after being lured by undercover law enforcement agents to western European countries with extradition treaties with the U.S. The ICE-led investigation resulted in the arrest of more than 1,200 individuals worldwide.