🔑 Key Takeaways
- Brett Johnson's childhood experiences and lack of family support led him down a path of crime where he used illegal activities to gain cash, in an attempt to buy love and overcome his fear of losing loved ones.
- When faced with tough times, people will resort to desperate measures to survive. Family can stick together and support each other, even if it means breaking the law.
- With the right guidance and support, even individuals with a troubled past can turn their lives around and reach their full potential.
- Education can be a way out of tough situations, but it's important to stay grounded and make the most of the opportunity. Don't let the past control your future.
- Delaying victims can discourage them from complaining, making it easier for criminals to continue their illegal activities. It’s important to report any suspicious behavior to law enforcement.
- Getting involved in criminal activities can lead to legal troubles and damage relationships. It's important to avoid illegal activities and make ethical choices to prevent unnecessary consequences.
- Law enforcement might unintentionally teach criminals how to be better by making them more careful and creative with their tactics.
- Building trust through reputation systems is crucial in online marketplaces. Committing fraudulent activities can lead to severe consequences and damage personal relationships. Always prioritize honesty and integrity in all aspects of life.
- Seeking help is important, but falling into unhealthy habits to impress someone can lead to trouble. Criminal activities have consequences and can attract undesired attention.
- CarderPlanet pioneered the CVV1 hack that allowed fraudsters to withdraw cash from ATMs using stolen credit cards. They also relied on money mules and track data to make money, ushering in a new era of credit card fraud.
- Gollumfun's expertise in carding, database exploration, and fraudulent income tax returns helped ShadowCrew grow by attracting new members and improving moderation.
- Cybercriminals cannot escape attention from law enforcement despite critical mass and anonymity. Greed and carelessness can lead to downfall, and clear rules and regulations are necessary to prevent criminal activities.
- Despite the temptation, illegal activities such as operating scam websites may result in serious legal consequences, strains on personal relationships and do not typically lead to long-term success or fulfillment.
📝 Podcast Summary
The Origins of Brett Johnson's Criminal Behavior
Brett Johnson's criminal behavior stems from his childhood which was marred by abuse, neglect and a mother who always tested people's love. His father was an army brat who turned to mining coal and tried his hand at various illegal activities. Brett has inherited the worst of both his parents with a criminal mindset from his mother and a fear of losing loved ones from his father. He uses illegal activities to gain cash, which he uses to buy love. His childhood experiences and lack of family support led him down a path of crime, resulting in being dubbed as the original internet Godfather.
Stealing and Shoplifting as a Means of Survival
Brett and his sister Denise, during their tough times, had to resort to stealing food and other necessities to survive. They had to be careful not to make any noise, waste water and food as it would set off their abusive grandfather. When their mother came back and found they had stolen things, instead of becoming angry, she joined them and started shoplifting with them. They had to go on road trips to different malls to steal clothes and jewelry. This shows how adversity can push people to do the unthinkable and how family can stick together during tough times.
Brett Johnson's Journey towards Redemption
Brett Johnson's criminal behavior started at a young age when he shoplifted and stole. He was influenced by his mother who was involved in criminal acts like drug trafficking and charity fraud. After his sister's shoplifting incident, she stopped, but Brett continued. At fifteen, he committed his first violent crime, assaulting a woman on an elevator. Later, he found a teacher who saw his potential in academics and drama and excelled in high school. He graduated and got a full ride scholarship to San Jose State University. This shows that people can change and turn their lives around with the right guidance and support.
The Power of Education in Breaking Free from Control.
Breaking free from the grasp of a controlling parent or situation can be tough. But education provides a way out. Jack's sister managed to get a full scholarship at a college that saw through her mother's manipulative behavior. She turned out to be a Teacher of the Year. In Brett's case, he faked a car accident to get out of Hazard and attend college, but ended up quitting his job and getting into fraud. Education can provide a way out of a challenging situation, but it's important to stay grounded and make the most of the opportunity.
From Phone Lists to Beanie Baby Scams: Brett’s Criminal Evolution
Brett's criminal activity started with stealing phone lists of Kiwanis Club and creating his own club, for which he got arrested and spent three months in jail, leading to financial struggles for his family. He stumbled upon eBay and then started selling fake beanie babies online. Brett's first scam involved selling a blue elephant that he couldn't dye blue and instead posted a real picture of it online to trick the buyer into sending him $1,500. He delayed the victim enough to avoid confrontation and never got caught. Brett learned the lesson that delaying victims can make them give up and not complain to law enforcement, reinforcing the idea of continuing criminal activity.
Brett Johnson's Advancing Criminal Activities and the Consequences He Faced
Brett Johnson's criminal activities started with stealing computers and progressed to selling pirated software, which he learned to do by watching Inside Edition. He then sold autographed baseballs with forged signatures and printed fake certificates of authenticity. When caught, he was given the option to send the buyers their money back or go to jail. His criminal activities were so numerous that he couldn't keep track of all of them, and he even forgot some. Johnson's activities not only led to legal trouble but also strained his relationship with his wife, who eventually found out about his criminal life and was angry with him for deceiving her.
Criminals can become even better through law enforcement's actions.
The consequence of just law enforcement visiting trains you to become more careful next time and this can make you an even better criminal. Brett learned how to install mod chips in PlayStations and started earning cash while doing it. He started doing the same for cable boxes, satellite DSS signals, and made a lot of money using PayPal. To launder the money, he bought a fake driver's license from a guy named Fake ID Man, who ripped him off. Brett was angry and found a website called Counterfeit Library. He got on the forum there and made friends with Mr. X and Beelzebub who were involved in various crimes and scams and offered to make him an ID.
The Importance of Reputation Systems and the Consequences of Fraudulent Activities
A reputation system was added to the Counterfeit Library forum, which helped buyers to trust the sellers. The vouching feature made buyers accountable for the seller's reliability. Mubin, a skilled man from Pakistan, offered to take IT certification tests and handed them over to the buyers with their desired names for a fee. Brett started committing various crimes using a fake ID named Steven Schwecki. Susan, Brett's wife, discovered his criminal activities when the cops started investigating him, leading to their strained relationship. Brett manipulated Susan for six years, and they finally ended things when she cheated on him. He found out about her infidelity when she minimized her computer screen, which led to their separation.
From heartbreak to crime: A tale of one man's downward spiral
Brett's relationship ended when he caught his girlfriend cheating. He sought help from a criminal psychologist, who helped him with his suicidal thoughts and loneliness. However, he started drinking and visiting strip clubs where he met Elizabeth. In an attempt to impress her, he turned to online crimes like making fake IDs and committing fraud. This behavior was fueled by Elizabeth's love for expensive things, which gave him the incentive to commit these crimes. Eventually, they caught the attention of Dmitry Golubov, a spammer who had been watching their activities with Counterfeit Library.
How CarderPlanet Revolutionized Credit Card Fraud
CarderPlanet was the start of credit card fraud as we know it today. It all started when Dmitry convinced Brett about his stolen credit card information by making him order $9,000 worth of computers with it. This led to the CVV1 hack which enabled carders to buy credit cards from customers of certain banks and write them to blank cards, allowing them to withdraw cash from ATMs. The Ukrainians relied on money mules to put cash in their pockets, and they provided the track data. Money mules had to send 60% of their take back to the Ukrainians, and they'd send more cards. The whole operation revolved around buying stuff with stolen credit cards and cashing them out to make money.
Gollumfun's role in the rise of ShadowCrew
ShadowCrew, a website exclusively dealing with fake IDs, faced low demand and limited membership until Gollumfun created an area for carding and convinced Ukrainians to join. He also began examining database dumps on the site and using the California State Death Index to file fraudulent income tax returns for dead people, making a lot of money. Counterfeit Library, their earlier website, faced overrun and lack of moderation due to members of a large forum flooding the site with troll posts. Gollumfun moved to ShadowCrew to facilitate better moderation and added new forums, becoming a moderator and admin on the site.
The rise and fall of cybercrime before the era of Tor, dark web, and Bitcoin.
The story highlights the rise of cybercrime and how easy it was to commit a crime before the era of Tor, dark web, and Bitcoin. Criminal behavior attracted more criminals, leading to more significant crimes. The lack of clear rules and regulations made it easy for the individuals to conduct criminal activities. The story emphasizes that even with critical mass and high-anonymity, cybercriminals cannot escape attention from the Secret Service or other law enforcement agencies. The founder was scared of getting attention from law enforcement and had three key rules in place but was unable to follow them. The story also reflects how one's greed can lead to downfall as the individuals in the story were caught due to sheer carelessness.
The Risks and Consequences of Operating Illegal Websites
Operating illegal websites and scams can lead to serious legal consequences, including arrests, warrants, and forfeiting the ability to be bailed out. Even with successful scams, the risks outweigh the rewards, and associates, customers, or partners could be the very ones to inform law enforcement. Personal relationships can also suffer, whether it be romantic or work-related. Despite being ahead of his time with ShadowCrew as a darknet marketplace, and making $160,000 in tax refund fraud, Brett Johnson realized the danger he and others were in, and retired from the site while still conducting tax scams. Illegal activities can be tempting, but in the end, they do not usually result in long-term success or fulfillment.