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


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.

Named Operation WireWire, several federal authorities were involved to disrupt global BEC schemes, including the FBI, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, the Department of the Treasury, and the US Postal Inspection Service.

Federal authorities have arrested 74 people - including 42 in the United States - for allegedly hijacking wire transfer funds through a sophisticated email scam, the Justice Department said Monday. The FBI said it's recovered about $14 million from the scammers, and seized $2.4 million from its Operation WireWire.

BEC scams typically involve messages that impersonate a company official requesting the urgent payment of funds, resulting in fraudulent wire transfers or checks. The scams sometimes target personally identifiable information or employee tax records rather than money, officials note.

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The US said such scams are "prevalent" and pledged to pursue perpetrators "regardless of where they are located". By using phishing, social engineering and other types of malicious attacks and intrusions, these potential targets are tricked into making wire transfers that are believed to be the legitimate bank accounts but instead are controlled by criminals. The fraudsters often "enlist and manipulate the money mules through romance scams or "work-at-home" scams", it adds. The elderly are particularly targeted in BEC schemes.

It said, "Foreign citizens perpetrate many BEC scams". "Law enforcement agents executed over 51 domestic actions, including search warrants, money mule warning letters and asset seizure warrants totaling almost $1 million", the Justice Department statement notes.

It said the arrests reflect a coordinated crackdown on people who convince correspondents to wire them money for fraudulent activities.

Law enforcement officials arrested 74 fraudsters for allegedly intercepting and hijacking bank transfers, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said.