Published: Wed, June 13, 2018

Federal Bureau of Investigation arrests 74 email scammers in worldwide operation

Federal Bureau of Investigation arrests 74 email scammers in worldwide operation

The FBI announced 74 arrests on Monday (June 11), as part of a global law enforcement operation aimed at disrupting worldwide business e-mail compromise schemes that are created to intercept and hijack wire transfers.

Almost $2.4 million was seized in the six-month operation dubbed "Operation Wire Wire" and about $14 million in fraudulent wire transfers was recovered, according to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The operation has resulted in 42 arrests in the U.S., 29 in Nigeria, and three in Canada, Mauritius and Poland.

"The operation also resulted in the seizure of almost $2.4m, and the disruption and recovery of approximately $14m in fraudulent wire transfers", the statement said.

Many of these cases involved worldwide criminal organizations which defrauded not only small-to-large sized businesses but also individuals including real estate purchasers and the elderly.

Law officials warn that BEC scams may involve fraudulent requests for checks rather than wire transfers. Sometimes they'll ask for sensitive information such as employee tax records instead of, or in addition to, asking for money. The fraudsters convinced people to transfer money by hijacking email addresses and impersonating business partners.

According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), these BEC schemes have resulted in losses of over $3.7 billion - and this number is only from the cases that have been reported to the IC3. They then use the accounts to direct employees to transfer funds into bank accounts controlled by criminals.

"These same criminal organizations that perpetrate BEC schemes also exploit individual victim", the Federal Bureau of Investigation statement reads. The elderly are particularly targeted in BEC schemes.

"During Operation WireWire, U.S. law enforcement agents executed more than 51 domestic actions, including search warrants, asset seizure warrants, and money mule warning letters".

Fraud-fighting expert Shirley Inscoe, senior analyst at Aite Group, notes: "It is always a very positive thing to see law enforcement agencies working together internationally to fight fraud and punish the perpetrators". While several people were caught and indicted in this one case, there is no indication that they arrested the mastermind behind the scheme or even know who the mastermind is. "When this amount of money can be stolen with little risk of getting caught, there will always be people willing to commit fraud".

"This operation demonstrates the FBI's commitment to disrupt and dismantle criminal enterprises that target American citizens and their businesses", FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement.

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