Federal authorities—including the Department of Justice and the FBI—coordinated a major law enforcement effort to disrupt international Business Email compromise (BEC) schemes designed to intercept and hijack wire transfers from businesses and individuals.
The six-month sweep called Operation WireWire resulted in 74 arrests (42 in the United States), as well as the seizure of nearly $2.4 million and the disruption and recovery of approximately $14 million in fraudulent wire transfers.
Criminal impersonating as sellers, Realtors, title companies or law firms during a real estate transaction are one of the most common BEC schemes identified by the FBI.
During the operation, U.S. law enforcement agents executed more than 51 domestic actions, including search warrants, asset seizure warrants, and money mule warning letters. And local and state law enforcement partners on FBI task forces across the country, with the assistance of multiple district attorney's offices, charged 15 alleged money mules for their roles in defrauding victims.
The role of money mules, witting or unwitting, in BEC schemes is very important—they are used to receive the stolen money and then transfer the funds as directed by the fraudsters. The mules usually keep a fraction of the money for their trouble.
“This operation demonstrates the FBI’s commitment to disrupt and dismantle criminal enterprises that target American citizens and their businesses,” said FBI Director Christopher A. Wray. “We will continue to work together with our law enforcement partners around the world to end these fraud schemes and protect the hard-earned assets of our citizens. The public we serve deserves nothing less.”
Since the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) began keeping track of BEC and its variant, Email Account Compromise (EAC), as a complaint category, there has been a loss of over $3.7 billion reported to the IC3. According to the FBI, BEC/EAC fraud activity was the top online crime in 2017 with reported losses of more than $675 million.
ALTA has produced a short video and an infographic to help raise awareness about wire fraud. Click here to access the resources. In addition, the ALTA Registry can serve as an effective countermeasure to wire fraud.