BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A gang of computer hackers are busted for stealing the credit card numbers of 160 million Americans. Seventeen major corporations were hacked, including a number of companies here in Maryland.

Kai Jackson has more on the six year investigation that unraveled the plot.

Authorities say this is the largest hacking scheme ever prosecuted in the U.S.

Federal prosecutors say they’ve busted a major computer hacking operation. A scam so large, thieves stole at least 160 million credit and debit card numbers.

“The scheme was so sophisticated and brought together some of the most experienced and skilled hackers in the world,” said Paul Fishman, U.S. Attorney for New Jersey.

The indictments were announced in New Jersey. Five suspects are charged. Four are Russian and one is Ukrainian.

Authorities say they used sophisticated software to break into company computer networks. They’d extract passwords and credit card numbers, then sell the information to thieves. The thieves used the information to make purchases, or simply get cash.

“It’s costing people a lot of money and time and effort and energy to deal with the problem, and people to hunt down the problem,” said Vincent Serritella, Hampden.

The hackers are accused of penetrating more than a dozen major U.S. companies, including JCPenney, Jet Blue, the Nasdaq and even the popular convenience store 7-Eleven.

The indictment says the scheme went on for seven years, with the hackers selling each U.S. card number for about $10.

Consumers are not required to pay fraudulent charges, so some of the retailers are the ones on the  hook for the losses.

“Those who have the expertise and the inclination to break into our computer networks threaten our economic well-being, our privacy and ultimately our national security,” Fishman said.

The U.S. Attorney says two suspects are in custody. The investigation continues.

Prosecutors say the hackers were patient. They spent months gathering the stolen credit card numbers, then sold them to anyone who would buy them.


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