The Romanian town of Ramnicu Valcea has become the world capital of internet fraud. Young hackers, specialised in ripping off naive customers, evading police forces all over the world. Our reporter went to meet them.
It looks like a quiet, picturesque little town... but appearances can be deceptive. Nestled in the heart of Romania at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains, Ramnicu Valcea has become known in the US media as “Hackerville”. It’s the world capital of internet fraud, and the United States is the main target. Each year, young Romanian hackers get their hands on one billion dollars they have scammed from US victims. That’s when they’re not hacking into NASA’s servers, just to prove that they can.
The FBI and the CIA have pressured the Romanian authorities into creating a special police unit to tackle this new type of crime., with more than 200 Romanian officers are helping track down these criminally gifted hackers. The number of arrests has risen, but hackers are using new sophisticated technology to evade capture.
Flash cars and social housing
We went to “Hackerville”, where we lifted the veil on the shadowy world of the internet fraudsters. They’re a dangerous group, who are armed and ready to protect their interests. The neighbourhood of Ostroveni is the epicentre of web crime. It’s an area full of social housing in tower blocks from the Communist era. But outside these run-down flats, the streets are full of expensive, fast cars that are a marked contrast to their surroundings. The hackers like to show off their wealth and power with these high-powered vehicles, which they race through the streets at night,.
Could these web criminals be persuaded to go 'straight'? That’s the question we asked at Bitdefender, an IT company which has become a world leader in anti-virus software.
But for now, all bets are off.