Inside organized credit-card fraud

Wired News has started a new three-part investigative series on David Thomas, a fraud artist who worked for the FBI for 18 months running a credit-card-trading site that the FBI used to track crooks.

From bedrise to bedrest, seven days a week, he rode the boards and forums of his and other carding sites using the online nickname El Mariachi. He recorded private messages and IRC chats for the FBI as "carders" schemed to, among other things, sell stolen credit and debit card numbers, defraud the George Bush and John Kerry campaign sites, drain hundreds of thousands of dollars from bank and investment accounts, sell access to Paris Hilton's T-Mobile account and run phishing scams against U.S. Bank and the FDIC. He did it all while battling denial-of-service attacks against his site and dodging attempts by his old partner Taylor and other carders to track his whereabouts and out him as a fed.

Just as his enemies were closing in on him in September 2004, the FBI pulled the plug on his work and cut him loose. But not before Thomas had given authorities a valuable look at the internet's underworld, though the strain of leading a double life nearly broke him.