Credit card fraud has been on the rise for years now, but federal authorities recently cracked down on 13 people across the country who are alleged to have stolen hundreds of millions of dollars.

The 13 arrests, made in four states, brought down an alleged crime ring that the U.S. Department of Justice says involved more than 7,000 fraudulent identities, tens of thousands of credit cards, and more than $200 million in fraudulent purchases, according to a report from the FBI. In all, this is one of the largest cases of widespread fraud ever brought by the Justice Department.

The arrests themselves were made in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut, and all defendants were charged with one count of bank fraud, the report said. Officials believe the crimes stemmed a large and sophisticated fraud scheme that involved artificially inflating the credit ratings for thousands of non-existent people by giving bogus information to credit bureaus, then racking up massive debts using those improved ratings, which granted them access to larger credit limits with which they could commit more fraud.

“This type of fraud increases the costs of doing business for every American consumer, every day,” U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said. “Through their greed and their arrogance, the individuals arrested today and their conspirators allegedly harmed not only the credit card issuers, but everyone who deals with increased interest rates and fees because of the money sucked out of the system by criminals acting in fraud rings like this one.”

In all, it’s believed the defendants had as many as 1,800 different addresses from which they would send credit requests for the thousands of made-up people, the report said. Further, they also set up a number of phony companies and used the fraudulently obtained credit cards to make purchases at them, essentially acquiring massive amounts of money for doing nothing. These companies also supplied credit bureaus with fake customer data to more successfully inflate their credit standings.

Authorities are doing all they can to crack down on this type of crime and other credit card fraud, but unfortunately, millions of Americans will be victimized by it every year. The best way for borrowers to ensure they aren’t ripped off is to constantly monitor accounts for any signs of suspicious activity and report it immediately when it’s discovered.

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