BROOKLYN - Federal investigators have cracked what they say is the largest identity theft case in U.S. history.

The Department of Justice announced Tuesday that it had charged 11 people in connection with the hacking of nine major U.S. retailers and the theft and sale of more than 40 million credit and debit card numbers. Some of those retailers have locations in Brooklyn.

The indictment returned Tuesday by a federal grand jury in Boston alleges that the people charged hacked into the wireless computer networks of retailers including TJX Cos, BJ's Wholesale Club, OfficeMax, Boston Market, Barnes & Noble, Sports Authority,Forever 21 and DSW.

Some Brooklyn debit card users say they are glad to have taken precautions against identity theft.

"I put a code on it, or I have something where a red flag comes up if it's not me, so I think I'm safe," says Lisa Stanford, of Bed-Stuy.

Authorities say that after the suspects allegedly stole the personal information, they sold some of it online. They also are alleged to have cashed out at thousands of ATMs. Some in Brooklyn say that is why they choose to leave plastic at home and only pay in cash.

"Mostly, I try and use cash because of the fact that you can't be certain where your info is [going to] end up,? says Bed-Stuy resident Kevin Brown.

The case is believed to be the largest hacking and identity theft case ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice. The charges include conspiracy, computer intrusion, fraud and identity theft. Three of the defendants are U.S. citizens, while the others are from placessuch as Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus and China.