The Shadowcrew criminal organization was a global organization of thousands of members that was dedicated to promoting and facilitating the electronic theft of personal identifying information, credit card and debit card fraud, and the production and sale of false identification documents. The organization operated and maintained the website www.shadowcrew.com from 2002 until October 2004, when it was taken down by the U.S. Secret Service as the result of a year-long undercover investigation known as "Operation Firewall."
Shadowcrew was operated as a members-only communications medium to facilitate the commission of their criminal activities. Shadowcrew members gained access to the website by typing in their chosen online screen name and password at the login screen for the website. Individuals often were known by, and conducted their criminal business under, more than one online name.
Once they had logged into the website, Shadowcrew members were able to anonymously conduct their criminal activity through their chosen nicknames by posting messages to various forums within the website and sending and receiving secure private messages to each other via the website. The messages posted to various forums, among other things, provided guidance to Shadowcrew members on producing, selling and using stolen credit card and debit card information and false identification documents. The sole purpose of the Shadowcrew website was to promote and facilitate the commission of criminal activity.
The Shadowcrew criminal organization oversaw the activities of its membership through a hierarchical framework that included the following roles:
- a small group of “administrators” who served as a governing council of the criminal organization;
- “moderators” who oversaw and administered one or more subject-matter-specific forums on the website that either fell within an area of their expertise or covered their geographic location;
- “reviewers” who examined and/or tested products and services that members of the criminal organizations desired to advertise and sell;
- “vendors” who advertised and sold products and services to members of the criminal organizations via the website after the product or service had received a favorable written review from a reviewer; and
- “general members” who used the websites to gather and provide information about perpetrating criminal activity and facilitate their purchases of credit card numbers, false identification documents and other contraband.
Shadowcrew members collectively trafficked in at least 1.5 million stolen credit card numbers that resulted in over $4 million in actual losses to credit card companies and financial institutions.