Hacker takes $50,000 a few cents at a time
By Matthew Sparkes
Posted on 28 May 2008 at 09:30
A hacker has used a loophole to collect more than $50,000 from Google Checkout and online brokerage firms, a few cents at a time.
When opening an online brokering account it is common practice for companies such as E-trade and Schwab to send a tiny payment - ranging from only a few cents to a couple of dollars - to verify that the user has access to the bank account listed. Services such as Google Checkout and Paypal use a similar tactic to verify credit and debit cards linked to accounts.
According to court documents, Californian Michael Largent used an automated script to open 58,000 such accounts, collecting many thousands of these small payments into a few personal bank accounts.
Largent also performed the same trick with Google's Checkout service, cashing more than $8,000 alone from the service.
He is currently free on bail pending a court judgement on charges of wire, bank and mail fraud for his antics with the online brokerage sites, although his similar approach to getting cash out of Google has not been pursued by police as of this time.
When his bank contacted him about the thousands of small payments, Largent explained that he had read the terms of service of the sites he was targeting, and believed he was doing nothing wrong, claiming that he needed the money to pay off debts.
However, Largent used false names, including cartoon characters, as well as false addresses and social security numbers, which opened him to conviction under laws on mail, bank and wire fraud.
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