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Thursday, 12 September 2019 10:15

281 'Nigerian scammers' arrested around the world Featured

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 Authorities in 10 countries have arrested hundreds of suspects accused of involvement in Business Email Compromise schemes, with stolen funds totalling over US$120 million.

The FBI announced that partner organisations around the world had disrupted a major Business Email Compromise scheme.

"Operation reWired, a months-long, multi-agency effort to disrupt and dismantle international business email compromise (BEC) schemes, resulted in 281 arrests, including 74 in the United States, officials announced. Arrests were also made in Nigeria [167], Turkey [18], Ghana [15], France, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, and the United Kingdom. The sweep resulted in the seizure of nearly $3.7 million and the disruption and recovery of approximately $118 million in fraudulent wire transfers."

In announcing the arrests, the US Department of Justice observed that the scams went considerably wider than the rather dodgy "I'm a princess and my husband died, I need to get $10M out of the country" emails that we all see regularly.

Instead, they pointed to a variety of identity theft and fraudulent tax returns schemes. "In unraveling this complex, nationwide identity theft and tax fraud scheme, we discovered that the conspirators stole more than 250,000 identities and filed more than 10,000 fraudulent tax returns, attempting to receive more than $91 million in refunds," said Chief Don Fort of IRS Criminal Investigation. "We will continue to work with our international, federal and state partners to pursue all those responsible for perpetrating this fraud, preying on innocent victims and attempting to cheat the U.S. out of millions of dollars."

In outlining the extent of the offences, the DoJ pointed out: "BEC scams are related to, and often conducted together with, other forms of fraud such as:

  • "Romance scams, where victims are lulled into believing they are in a legitimate relationship, and are tricked into sending or laundering money under the guise of assisting the paramour with an international business transaction, a U.S. visit, or some other cover story;
  • "Employment opportunities scams, where victims are convinced to provide their PII to apply for work-from-home jobs, and, once 'hired' and 'overpaid' by a bad check, to wire the overpayment to the 'employer's' bank before the check bounces;
  • "Fraudulent online vehicle sales scams, where victims are convinced they are purchasing a non-existent vehicle and must pay for it by sending the codes of prepaid gift cards in the amount of the agreed upon sale price to the "seller;"
  • "Rental scams, where a scammer agrees to rent a property, sends a bad check in excess of the agreed upon deposit, and requests the overpayment be returned via wire before the check bounces; and
  • "Lottery scams, where victims are convinced they won an international lottery but must pay fees or taxes before receiving the payout."

Operation reWired follows a successful Operation WireWire in 2018, which led to 74 arrests and the seizure of US$2.4 million.

"The FBI is working every day to disrupt and dismantle the criminal enterprises that target our businesses and our citizens," said FBI director Christopher Wray. "Through Operation reWired, we're sending a clear message to the criminals who orchestrate these BEC schemes: We'll keep coming after you, no matter where you are."

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