Operation WireWire: FBI Arrests Email Fraudsters "in Bulk" in a Global Takedown

Blanche Robertson
June 13, 2018

The arrests were as a result of a coordinated effort to disrupt business email compromise schemes that are created to intercept and hijack wire transfers from businesses and individuals, including many senior citizens, according to a statement on its website dated June 11, 2018.

The arrests were part of Operation Wire Wire, a six-month investigation by the Justice Department, U.S. Postal and Inspection Service, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Department of the Treasury.

In addition to the 42 in the United States, the arrests included 29 in Nigeria, as well as three in Canada, Mauritius, and Poland.

Today's statement also said that federal authorities seized almost $2.4 million and disrupted and recovered approximately $14 million in fraudulent wire transfers.

The cases involve a growing type of fraud known as "business email compromise" that targets employees with access to corporate finances.

Many of these cases involved global criminal organizations which defrauded not only small-to-large sized businesses but also individuals including real estate purchasers and the elderly. The fraudsters convinced people to transfer money by hijacking email addresses and impersonating business partners. The scams sometimes target personally identifiable information or employee tax records rather than money, officials note.

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"Foreign citizens perpetrate many BEC scams".

The US said such scams are "prevalent" and pledged to pursue perpetrators "regardless of where they are located".

Authorities also went after "money mules" - "witting or unwitting accomplices" who receive the money from the victims and transfer it as directed by the fraudsters.

Starting in January, the coordinated enforcement action targeted hundreds of BEC scammers, officials say.

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

In a statement published on the agency's website, it said, the operation was a coordinated effort by the federal authorities including the Department of Justice and the FBI aimed at intercepting illegal wire transfers from businesses and individuals across the globe.

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