The Department of Justice today announced the arrest of 281 suspects in connection with email scams and wire transfer fraud. The action is the biggest of its kind yet against this type of digital scammer, and is a strong symbol of law enforcement's sense of urgency in trying to contain a rapidly growing threat. Wired reports: You're familiar with crimes like this, even if you don't know them by their proper name of "business email compromise" schemes. It involves the coordinated crafting of compelling scam emails that trick employees or vulnerable individuals into sending money, then using strategic mules to wire the funds back to the perpetrators. Such scams have ballooned in recent years, costing victims tens of billions of dollars over time. The DOJ said the new round of arrests took four months to carry out across 10 countries, and resulted in the seizure of almost $3.7 million.
Tuesday's law enforcement initiative, dubbed Operation reWired, involved extensive international coordination to make 167 arrests in Nigeria, 74 in the United States, 18 in Turkey, and 15 in Ghana. The remainder took place in France, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, and the United Kingdom. Research and law enforcement investigations have shown that a large proportion of all email scamming originates in West Africa, specifically Nigeria, but the scams have spread, partly because some West African actors have moved around the world. The new arrest of 281 suspects involved global coordination among law enforcement agencies. In the U.S. alone, Operation reWired involved the DOJ, the Department of Homeland Security, the Treasury, the State Department, and the Postal Inspection Service.
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