A corporate email compromise (BEC) scheme that has cost victims millions of dollars has been disrupted in an international operation coordinated by the FBI.
Over a three-month period beginning in September 2021, “Operation Eagle Sweep” resulted in the arrests of 65 suspects. Arrests were made in the United States, twelve in Nigeria, eight in South Africa, two in Canada and one in Cambodia.
The operation targeted scammers believed to be behind corporate email attacks targeting more than 500 victims in the United States, causing losses of at least $51 million.
In BEC attacks, cyber criminals use social engineering to trick an employee of a company into transferring a large sum of money into an account managed by the scammers.
Common techniques used in BEC attacks, including sending emails designed to look like urgent payment requests from your boss or a co-worker.
Cyber criminals have also been known to use phishing emails to hack into email accounts and monitor communications surrounding real business deals and contracts, waiting for the deal to close before sending an email from the compromised user who asks for the real payment, but sends it to a bank account owned by the attackers.
SEE: How to keep your banking information and finances safer online
While many of these campaigns target companies looking to make hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars at once, the FBI says the same criminal groups that carry out BEC attacks also target individuals, including homebuyers and the elderly. Romance scams also follow a similar model.
According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), victims of BEC attacks reported total losses of nearly $2.4 billion in 2021.
“The FBI works tirelessly with our domestic and international partners to disrupt and dismantle criminal enterprises, to end the victimization of US citizens and businesses, and to impose real consequences on cybercriminals using our unique authorities and enduring partnerships” , said Bryan Vorndran, Deputy Director of the FBI’s Cyber Division.
“Our message to criminals involved in these BEC schemes will remain clear: we will pursue you wherever you are. The audiences we serve deserve nothing less,” he added.
Law enforcement agencies around the world assisted in conducting investigations and arrests. Those working alongside the FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspectorate include the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the South African Police Service, the Toronto Police Service, the Cambodian National Police, and law enforcement agencies in Australia and Japan. Microsoft Corporation’s Digital Crimes Unit also provided assistance.
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