Published: Wed, June 13, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Federal Bureau of Investigation says 74 arrested in global sweep targeting e-mail compromise schemes

Federal Bureau of Investigation says 74 arrested in global sweep targeting e-mail compromise schemes

The US Justice Department on Monday announced the arrest of 74 individuals, including 42 in the US, for their involvement in "business email compromise" (BEC) schemes created to steal money and valuable information from both businesses and individuals.

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.

Some of the people arrested in Operation Wire Wire were Nigerian nationals living in the U.S.

"The operation also resulted in the seizure of almost $2.4m, and the disruption and recovery of approximately $14 million in fraudulent wire transfers, " a statement by the United States department of justice said.

Hackers execute BEC scams by impersonating employees or business executives after gaining access to their email accounts.

Other individuals fell victim to classic romance and lottery scams, and on some occasions, the perpetrators asked for sensitive information, such as tax records, instead of cash. This "cyber-enabled financial fraud" - which originated in Nigeria, the same source of the notorious Nigerian prince email scams - fools victims into believing they're sending money to business partners, while they're really giving thousands of dollars away to thieves.

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Since the Internet Crime Complaint Center began keeping track of BEC and its variant, Email Account Compromise, over $3.7 billion in losses has been reported, officials say.

Money mules may be witting or unwitting accomplices who receive funds from the victims and then transfer the money as directed by the fraudsters, the Justice Department notes.

The same groups also ran similar scams targeting individuals, including real-estate buyers and the elderly, the bureau said.

It culminated in more than two weeks of intensified law enforcement activity resulting in 73 arrests in the USA and overseas, primarily in Nigeria, and the recovery or seizure of about $6 million.

Al Pascual, senior vice president of research at Javelin Strategy & Research, calls the crackdown "a great step in the right direction".

"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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