FBI arrests 74 in operation against BEC scammers

The FBI has announced that as part of Operation Wire Wire, a coordinated effort to disrupt Business Email Compromise (BEC) schemes, 74 arrests have been made, including 42 in the United States, 29 in Nigeria, and three in Canada, Mauritius and Poland.

The operation, which was carried out over a six-month period and led by the US Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Treasury, as well as the US Postal Inspection Service, also led to nearly $2.4 million being sized, and around $14 million in fraudulent wire transfers being disrupted and recovered.

The explosive expansion of the cyber domain has forced us to develop innovative ways of conducting these types of investigations

– Randolph Alles, Director, Secret Service

“The Secret Service remains committed to aggressively investigating and pursuing those responsible for cyber-enabled financial crimes,” said Secret Service Director Randolph “Tex” Alles.  “Although the explosive expansion of the cyber domain has forced us to develop innovative ways of conducting these types of investigations, our proven model remains the same.”

The cases investigated targeted both businesses and individuals, and several involved ‘money mules’, who are the recipients of the initial transfers and who then transfer the money on to the fraudster. According to the FBI, many of these are enlisted through either romance scams or ‘work from home’ scams and are unaware of the fraud, though 15 alleged mules are being charged regardless for their involvement in schemes uncovered by Operation Wire Wire.

A report released by the Internet Complaint Center (IC3) on online crime in 2017 showed that email compromise schemes were the main cause of reported losses last year, resulting in 15,690 complaints and adjusted losses of over $675 million.

Similarly, Proofpoint’s ‘The Human Factor 2018’ report showed that roughly 80% of all organisations had been targeted in BEC attacks or other forms of email fraud.

“This operation demonstrates the FBI’s commitment to disrupt and dismantle criminal enterprises that target American citizens and their businesses,” said FBI Director Christopher A. Wray. “We will continue to work together with our law enforcement partners around the world to end these fraud schemes and protect the hard-earned assets of our citizens. The public we serve deserves nothing less.”

Researcher, writer, recovering medievalist. Currently particularly interested in the cybersecurity solutions market, cyber insurance/risk modelling, and IoT security.

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