Federal authorities announced what they called a significant coordinated effort to disrupt “Business Email Compromise” (BEC) schemes designed to intercept and hijack wire transfers from businesses and individuals, including many senior citizens. Operation reWired, an enforcement effort by the departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Treasury, State and the Postal Inspection Service, was conducted over four months, resulting in 281 arrests in the U.S. and overseas, including 167 in Nigeria, 18 in Turkey and 15 in Ghana. Arrests were also made in France, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, and the United Kingdom. The operation resulted in the seizure of nearly $3.7 million.
BEC, also known as “cyber-enabled financial fraud,” is a sophisticated scam that targets employees with access to company finances and businesses working with foreign suppliers or businesses that regularly perform wire transfer payments. The same criminals that commit BEC also exploit individual victims, such as real estate purchasers, the elderly, and others, by convincing them to make wire transfers to bank accounts controlled by the criminals. This may be accomplished by impersonating a key employee or business partner after obtaining access to that person’s email account or through romance and lottery scams.