Two Torontonians were among 65 individuals arrested during an international U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation operation to combat business email compromise (BEC) schemes that intercept and steal wire transfers sent by businesses and individuals.
BEC, the FBI explained in its news release about the operation, is “a sophisticated scam that often targets employees of businesses that make payments through wire transfers. These skilled scammers usually gain access to a company’s email accounts or spoof their email addresses to send legitimate sounding and well-timed requests for wire transfers. The bank accounts provided for the transfers, however, are controlled by the criminals. The same criminal organizations that carry out BEC also exploit individuals, often real estate purchasers and the elderly.”
It’s big business. The FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center’s 2021 annual report revealed that BEC and a similar offence, email account compromise, together generated nearly US$2.4 billion in losses last year.
Toronto Police Services arrested the duo, who are accused of having tried to divert more than US$16 million from victims across the United States and Canada in cheque fraud and BEC scams.
The remaining arrests were made in the U.S, Nigeria, South Africa, and Cambodia.
The FBI’s Operation Eagle Sweep took place over a three-month period starting in September 2021 and targeted scammers believed to have attacked more than 500 U.S. victims, causing losses of more than US$51 million. the operation was funded and coordinated by the FBI, with the assistance of law enforcement agencies in Nigeria, South Africa, Cambodia, Australia, and Canada, with Australia, Japan, and Nigeria conducting local operations in parallel. The FBI also credited the National Cyber-Forensics and Training Alliance, and Microsoft Corporation’s Digital Crimes Unit for providing valuable assistance.
“The FBI works tirelessly with our domestic and international partners to disrupt and dismantle criminal enterprises, to stop the victimization of U.S. citizens and businesses, and to impose real consequences on cybercriminals using our unique authorities and enduring partnerships,” said assistant director Bryan Vorndran of the FBI’s Cyber Division in its release. “Operation Eagle Sweep’s success is directly attributed to our global reach and worldwide partnerships. Our message to criminals involved in these BEC schemes will remain clear: We will pursue you no matter where you may be located. The public we serve deserves nothing less.”