Singaporean ‘geek’ jailed for using stolen credit card details to buy goods worth S$20,000 online

The items police seized from the suspect included more than 20 cans of milk powder, 15 pre-paid cards, and eight electronic devices. — TODAY pic
The items police seized from the suspect included more than 20 cans of milk powder, 15 pre-paid cards, and eight electronic devices. — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, May 17 — Taking elaborate steps to cover his tracks, the computer geek first searched for stolen credit card details on the dark web, before using Bitcoin to purchase them on the Internet and from unsavoury individuals.

John Foo Chit Yang then used the card details — many belonging to foreigners — to buy more than S$20,000 (RM60,775) worth of items, such as milk powder, bird’s nest and diapers, on online merchant platform Honestbee.

Again, he was careful to create anonymous accounts there using “underground” SIM cards he bought from a peddler in Geylang.

In another measure designed to hide his identity, he would wear a surgical mask when personally receiving the items. He then resold most of them on e-marketplace Carousell to earn some cash.

The long arm of the law caught up with him in October 2017, two months after he began committing his offences.

Yesterday, the 27-year-old was sentenced to 20 months’ jail after he pleaded guilty to 20 charges under the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act.

A total of 50 similar charges were taken into consideration for sentencing. Foo will begin serving his sentence on May 23 after District Judge Luke Tan granted his request for a week’s deferment.

“It is clear that it was an elaborate and sophisticated scheme. The scale of your whole plan was well-thought-through, well-planned and well-executed, I must say. Unfortunately, all these are crimes,” the judge told Foo.

Modus Operandi

The court heard that in May 2017, Foo downloaded the Tor dark web browser and began surfing websites that dealt with illicit items, such as drugs and stolen personal information.

While he opened accounts on these websites, he did not buy anything there. Instead, he turned to Google to search for credit card details, and found a website selling such details from individuals worldwide.

These details included their names, credit card numbers and the cards’ expiry dates.

As Foo had an existing Bitcoin account, he used Bitcoin to buy the details, which cost between US$25 and US$35 (about S$33 to S$47).

He also bought credit card details from other individuals, such as from a Russian called “747 Alvin”, who sold such information on other communication platforms. Foo knew he had obtained them through illegal means such as phishing and the use of malware.

Phishing attacks mainly use fraudulent methods, such as the spoofing of Internet addresses and emails, to obtain sensitive information.

Foo would then use a website to check if the credit cards were valid, and buy “underground” Singtel pre-paid cards from a peddler in Geylang. The cards were registered under the names of foreigners who had since left Singapore.

With those details in hand, he created accounts on Honestbee to buy a variety of items, totalling S$20,899 in value. These included:

  • Mead Johnson Nutrition Enfamil formulated milk powder
  • Frisco Gold milk powder
  • Abbott PediaSure milk powder
  • TruLife bird’s nest with rock sugar
  • Drinks such as Coca-Cola, Meiji milk, Pokka coffee
  • Huggies diapers
  • USB travel adaptor

He was arrested after one of his victims made a police report, saying she had received a text message from the State Bank of India notifying her of seven transactions on her credit card with Honestbee. Honestbee also reported several suspicious transactions on its website.

Following his arrest, investigators found a document in Foo’s computer with all the credit card details he had bought, chat logs with other individuals, and tools used to “hack” into other computers.

Foo has since made full restitution to the affected credit card companies that facilitated the transactions.

Sought help

Deputy Public Prosecutor Thiagesh Sukamaran sought 24 months’ imprisonment for Foo, stating that his actions established a pattern of criminal conduct. He argued that Foo had put in a “large degree of planning and premeditation” as well.

Foo’s lawyers Josephus Tan and Cory Wong called for 15 months’ jail instead. In mitigation, they told the court that full credit should be given to their client for making full restitution, and that psychiatric reports showed his risk of reoffending was very low.

Foo had been addicted to codeine and benzodiazepines, but has since sought help and “remained on the straight and narrow” for the last 18 months, Tan added. — TODAY

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