Feds arrest dozens in alleged wire transfer scam

Feds arrest dozens in alleged wire transfer scam
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Federal authorities have arrested dozens of people for allegedly hijacking or intercepting wire transfers through sophisticated email scams, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Monday.

Law enforcement officials arrested 74 people for allegedly carrying out business email compromise (BEC) schemes, or “cyber-enabled financial fraud" as part of Operation Wire Wire, according to a DOJ press release.

Hackers execute BEC scams by impersonating employees or business executives after gaining access to their email accounts. These types of attacks use social engineering tactics to trick unsuspecting employees and business executives into making wire transfers to bank accounts that are controlled by the criminals. The elderly are particularly targeted in BEC schemes. 

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The Justice Department coordinated with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Treasury Department and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to track the suspected cyber crooks, which ultimately resulted in the arrest of 42 alleged fraudsters in the United States and 29 in Nigeria.

Law enforcement also seized nearly $2.4 million as part of the operation, and recovered approximately $14 million in fraudulent wire transfers by disrupting the BEC schemes, the DOJ said.

Top law enforcement officials touted the action taken against the alleged cyber criminals.

“Fraudsters can rob people of their life's savings in a matter of minutes,” Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsDem warns Trump: 'Obstruction of justice' to fire Rosenstein Donald Trump’s Rosenstein dilemma White House proposes executive order to Trump that would examine tech companies’ practices MORE said in a statement. “These are malicious and morally repugnant crimes."

“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.

The DOJ largely attributed BEC scams to Nigerian crime organizations that have spread to the U.S. and other countries.

"Foreign citizens perpetrate many BEC scams. Those individuals are often members of transnational criminal organizations, which originated in Nigeria but have spread throughout the world," the press release notes.

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

Sessions also "expressed gratitude" to the law enforcement officials in Nigeria who worked with them to "curb" BEC schemes.