Demand for stolen credit cards has dropped in the pandemic

Demand for stolen credit cards has dropped in the pandemic

Marketplaces, even cybercriminal ones, are subject to the laws of supply and demand.

Like more reputable merchants, purveyors of stolen goods have been hit by the coronavirus pandemic. As COVID-19 ravaged the world this year—forcing businesses to close and people to stay at home—demand for stolen credit card data has dropped on dark web shops.

With fewer opportunities to shop at brick-and-mortar stores, and thereby reap a return on investment, the market value of “card present” data has fallen. Such purloined information includes copied magnetic strip data that can be turned by crooks into fraudulent payment cards. The median price of stolen card-present data has more than halved in recent months, said Stas Alforov, head of R&D for Gemini Advisory, a New York-based cybersecurity firm.

Whereas in December, the median price per stolen credit card was around $12.50, according to Gemini’s data, in June, each was fetching $6.30. Such a steep price drop-off is atypical even outside the usual end-of-year holiday shopping season, when all sales—legitimate and fraudulent—tend to be highest, Alforov said.

Shady retailers have adapted to the downturn in demand by running discounts. “It’s just like if you walk into a Burlington Coat Factory or a Macy’s. Nobody is chasing down the racks that have full-price deals on them. Everyone is looking for the discount racks,” Alforov told Fortune on a call.

Meanwhile, as more consumers shift their spending online, stolen data related to web-based payments has gotten a boost. The market value of “card not present” data—information found on online checkout pages—has ticked up to $9 from around $8 at the end of last year, based on Gemini’s data.

As economies reopen and the effects of unemployment become clearer, the world may see a rebound in “carding” fraud. Indeed, as Brian Krebs, an independent cybersecurity journalist who reported on the trend on Tuesday, warned, we should expect recent cybercrime trends to take a turn, “likely for the worse.”

“Just as various individuals are happy to be back and dining at restaurants and going out to local bars, in the same way, criminals are very excited to get back to business as usual,” Alforov told me.

Robert Hackett

Twitter: @rhhackett

Email: robert.hackett@fortune.com

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