In central Romania, nestled at the foot of the Carpathian mountains, is the city of Râmnicu Vâlcea. Its Facebook page claims a population of more than 92,500 residents, and according to French newspaper Le Monde, it boasts a dubious distinction related to online crime. Nicknamed “Hackerville,” Râmnicu Vâlcea is being called the international capital of Internet theft.
Mark Gitenstein, the American ambassador in Bucharest, Romania, said that last year, $1 billion was stolen in the U.S. by Romanian hackers. While approximately 80 percent of those victimized by Romanian hacking networks are Americans, online thievery has also affected large numbers of French, British, German and Italian citizens.
What sets Romania’s online criminals apart is their propensity to work in groups. These networks recruit young people, even children from a local orphanage, to participate in setting up fake websites to sell bogus products and swipe credit card information. One hacker speaking anonymously to Le Monde explained that Americans are easy targets since they buy so many products online. “These guys buy their bread online,” he said, “They’re used to doing everything on the Internet.”
To combat online crime emanating from the region, the FBI is training 600 Romanian law enforcement officers on the ins and outs of cyber-crime. In 2011, the unit’s activities resulted in 500 arrests.
Râmnicu Vâlcea, Romania photo courtesy of Wikipedia.