Authorities in several countries have arrested nearly 300 scammers, most operating from Nigeria, a US Department of Justice press release stated Tuesday.
Operation reWired, which harnessed the resources of US departments including the Postal Inspection Service and law enforcement agencies around the world, resulted in the arrests of 281 individuals, including 74 in the United States, 167 in Nigeria, 18 in Turkey and 15 in Ghana. More arrests were made in the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, and Kenya, and authorities seized almost 3.7 million USD.
The operation dismantled Business Email Compromise schemes, which target employees responsible for company finances and businesses that make wire transfers abroad. BEC also tricks individuals, including the elderly, into making online payments to criminal bank accounts.
“The Department of Justice has increased efforts in taking aggressive enforcement action against fraudsters who are targeting American citizens and their businesses in business email compromise schemes and other cyber-enabled financial crimes,” said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, as quoted in the release.
“Anyone who engages in deceptive practices like this should know they will not go undetected and will be held accountable,” he said.
BEC can take many forms, including romance scams, which convince victims they are giving money to a romantic partner, or lottery scams, which persuade “winners” to pay substantial taxes and fees before receiving their prize money.
Money mules act as intermediaries, moving funds from the victim to the scammer via wire transfer. Some of these mules are victims themselves, unaware of criminal activity, but others are willing accomplices.
BEC schemes can ruin individuals and businesses, but also undermine the world economy. Due to the impact of BEC and Email Account Compromise, a similar scam, the international market lost over 1.3 billion dollars in 2018, according to the International Crime Complaint Center.
To combat and prevent future cybercrimes, the center urges victims to report suspected fraud.