FBI raids Nigeria, US, UK, 7 other countries to arrest 281 internet fraudsters

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Police in 10 countries have arrested 281 people they suspect of carrying out large-scale money-transfer scams.

The FBI co-ordinated the raids over several months against groups of people suspected of stealing millions of pounds from companies and individuals.

The scam involves tricking victims into wiring money to bank accounts controlled by fraudsters.

Spoof email messages make the money-transfer requests appear to have come from bosses or other senior staff.

Almost $3.7m (£3m) in cash had been seized during the raids, said the FBI. Evidence gathered from the law enforcement operation should lead to another $118m being seized, it added.

The global campaign, Operation Rewired, saw raids in the US, UK, Nigeria, Turkey, Ghana, France, Italy, Japan, Kenya and Malaysia over the past four months.

Of those arrested, 167, were from Nigeria.

Ibrahim Magu, who chairs Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission according to BBC Africa report said the action was part of a larger effort against groups of suspected tech-savvy criminals called Yahoo boys.

As well as cash, Mr Magu said, the raids had also led to the seizure of “exotic cars, plots of land in choice areas in Lagos and a property in Abuja”.

The FBI urged anyone handling money transfer requests that arrived by email to take extra time to verify the identity of the sender and that the request was genuine.

In a report by BBC Africa, the scam, which the FBI calls Business Email Compromise (BEC), had led to losses of more than $26 billion globally since 2016, the FBI’s Internet Complaint Crime Center said.

“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,’” said FBI director Christopher Wray.

Catalin Cimpanu wrote on the ZDNet technology news website: “BEC scams were once an outlier of the cyber-crime scene, but now it’s by far the most profitable category.”

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