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2,000 arrests in crackdown on social engineering and business email scams


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The international police organization Interpol has arrested 2,000 people in a crackdown on social-engineering rackets and intercepted $50 million in illicit funds. 

Interpol announced it had conducted raids at 1,700 locations over two months, seizing $50 million in fraudulently gained proceeds and arresting 2,000 people, which it described as “operators, fraudsters and money launderers” as part of its crackdown on social engineering and business email compromise (BEC) rackets. 

BEC scams in 2021 resulted in losses of nearly $2.4 billion to US victims, according to the FBI

SEE: Don’t let your cloud cybersecurity choices leave the door open for hackers

Interpol said it has seen an increase in “vishing” or voice phishing fraud where criminals pretend to be bank officials in order to trick victims into sharing online account log-in details. The FBI and CISA warned in 2020 of a major uptick in vishing scammers

Interpol carried out the arrests between 8 March and 8 May as part of an operation codenamed First Light 2022. 

Some 76 countries participated in the crackdown on organized crime rings behind the telecoms and social-engineering scams.

Raids took place at call centres suspected of telecoms scams, in particular scams involving telephone deception, romance scams, email deception, and connected financial crime, according to Interpol. 

The action resulted in the identification of 3,000 suspects and 4,000 bank accounts being frozen. 

Interpol says Singapore Police Force also rescued a teenage victim who’d been tricked into pretending to be kidnapped and had sent his parents video footage of himself with fake wounds, seeking a €1.5 million ransom. 

The action also saw the arrest of a Chinese national wanted in connection with a Ponzi scheme estimated to have defrauded nearly 24,000 victims out of €34 million, who was in Papua New Guinea and returned to China. 

Singapore Police Force also arrested eight suspects linked to job-vacancy Ponzi scams targeting people seeking work as online marketers. The scammers users social media and messaging apps to promote high-paying online-marketing vacancies. The victims would initially make small earnings and then would be ordered to recruit more members to earn commissions. 

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