The US FBI and Department of Justice have led a series of raids around the world to close down business email compromise (BEC) scammers.
Seventy-four people have been arrested and $16m in stolen funds have been recovered after a six-month long operation to crack down on BEC gangs.
BEC fraud, also known as ‘CEO fraud' or ‘Man-in-the-Email' scams, use highly-targeted emails to attempt to divert legitimate business fund transfers. Phishing emails pretending to be from a company executive are sent to a business partner, customer or department, instructing them to change the bank details for a payment, diverting the funds to the scammer's account.
Reported BEC crimes have cost businesses over $3.7 billion since the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) began formally keeping track of BEC and its variant, e-mail account compromise (EAC), the FBI noted.
Operation WireWire-which also included the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of the Treasury, and the US Postal Inspection Service-involved a six-month sweep that culminated in over two weeks of intensified law enforcement activity resulting in 74 arrests in the US and overseas, including 42 in the US, 29 in Nigeria, and three in Canada, Mauritius, and Poland. The operation also resulted in the seizure of nearly $2.4 million and the disruption and recovery of approximately $14 million in fraudulent wire transfers.
The FBI said that Operation WireWire had targeted criminal organisations that defrauded small- to large-sized businesses, and some individual victims who transferred high-dollar amounts or sensitive records. A number of money mules were also arrested in the operation.
FBI Director Christopher Wray said that the operation "demonstrates the FBI's commitment to disrupt and dismantle criminal enterprises that target American citizens and their businesses.
"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."