"Operation Wire Wire", a coordinated effort by Interpol, national police forces, and USA agencies including the FBI, DoJ, Homeland Security, Treasury Department, Secret Service, and the Postal Inspection Service, was conducted over a six-month period.
Of those arrested, 42 were in the United States, 29 in Nigeria, and the others in Canada, Mauritius, and Poland, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said. The FBI added that $2.4 million dollars was seized, while $14 million in "fraudulent wire transfers" was recovered.
Hackers execute BEC scams by impersonating employees or business executives after gaining access to their email accounts.
Many of these cases involved worldwide criminal organizations which defrauded not only small-to-large sized businesses but also individuals including real estate purchasers and the elderly. The scams sometimes target personally identifiable information or employee tax records rather than money, officials note. "BEC and EAC is a prevalent scam, and the Justice Department, along with our partners, will continue to aggressively pursue and prosecute the perpetrators, including money mules, regardless of where they are located", the statement notes. "The defendant sent the emails with the intent of having the recipients send or wire money to bank accounts used, accessed, or controlled by others in furtherance of the conspiracy".
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According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), these BEC schemes have resulted in losses of over $3.7 billion - and this number is only from the cases that have been reported to the IC3.
Starting in January, the coordinated enforcement action targeted hundreds of BEC scammers, officials say.
It said the arrests reflect a coordinated crackdown on people who convince correspondents to wire them money for fraudulent activities.
"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.