FBI helps arrest hundreds, accused of cybersecurity swindles

8 On Your Side

TAMPA, Fla, (WFLA) – Federal agencies, and even law enforcement overseas, worked together to arrest 281 people, including 74 in the United States.

The arrests were part of a four-month crackdown on digital schemes called Operation ReWired. Those arrested are accused of tricking their victims into sending them money.

“As you can imagine, especially in the days of the internet and anonymity that it provides, it’s very difficult to track those down,” said Andrew Sekela, Supervisory Special Agent with the FBI.

Investigators targeted many of the same schemes detailed in Better Call Behnken investigations:

  • Phony romance schemes, in which victims think they’re giving money to someone they’ve fallen in love with.
  • Mortgage swindle, tricking victims into wiring home down payments directly to crooks.
  • Real estate rent theft, duping unsuspecting people into leasing homes other people own.

Shockingly, many of those arrested started out as victims themselves.

“The pitch that these subjects gave to these victims, at least original victims, was that this was a way for you to earn some of your money back,” Sekela said.

Arrests were also made in Nigeria, Turkey, Ghana, France, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, and the United Kingdom. The sweep resulted in the seizure of nearly $3.7 million and the disruption and recovery of approximately $118 million in fraudulent wire transfers.

One silver lining for victims. Sekela said the money confiscated can be used to repay some victims. He recommends victims contact their local FBI office so their situation can be investigated to see they qualify to receive part of the money.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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