What just happened? You might think that people don’t fall for email scams anymore, but you’d be wrong. The Justice Department has announced that federal authorities have arrested 281 people in the US and overseas in relation to Business Email Compromise (BEC) schemes, also known as “cyber-enabled financial fraud.”
Operation reWired, a coordinated law enforcement effort by the DoJ, Department of Homeland Security, Department of the Treasury, Postal Inspection Service, and the Department of State, took place over a four-month period, leading to the arrest of 74 people in the US, 167 in Nigeria, 18 in Turkey and 15 in Ghana. Arrests were also made in France, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, and the United Kingdom.
BEC scams often target employees at small- to large-sized businesses with access to the companies' financial accounts, tricking them into making wire transfers. The same criminals behind these emails also went after individuals such as the elderly using romance scams, which involves making someone believe they’ve found a perfect partner and convincing them to send money.
Other scams used by the criminals include the common lottery scam, in which someone is told they’ve won a lottery they never entered but need to pay the taxes before receiving their winnings. There were also work-from-home scams that see victims send “overpayments” to fake employers’ bank accounts; vehicle sale scams where victims pay for non-existent vehicles using prepaid gift cards; and rental scams, which involves scammers agreeing to rent a property, sending a bad check in excess of the agreed-upon deposit, and requesting the overpayment be returned via wire transfer before the check bounces.
“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. And to the public, we’ll keep doing whatever we can to protect you,” said FBI Director Christopher A. Wray.
The operation has seen almost $3.7 million recovered by law enforcement agents. According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, BEC and EAC (Email Account Compromise) scams accounted for over $1 billion in losses last year, almost twice as much as in 2017.
Last month, it was reported that Alaska was the state with most cybercrime victims per 10,000 residents—21.67—while South Carolina residents lost the most money, a massive $18,241.52 per person on average.