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Hundreds of alleged email scammers arrested in global crackdown

The targets included the elderly, real estate buyers and job hunters.

Email scam

The federal government has been targeting financial scams.

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The US government's four-month operation to take down alleged email scammers has led to 281 arrests across the globe. The Department of Justice announced on Tuesday the results of a massive international operation to stop what it calls Business Email Compromise schemes.

Such financial schemes involve people who work for businesses that conduct wire transfers and target individuals to convince them to wire money to bank accounts controlled by the scammers. 

Arrests included 167 alleged scammers in Nigeria, 74 in the US, 18 in Turkey and 15 in Ghana, the DOJ said. The other arrests were scattered across Europe, Asia and other African countries. 

The scams focused on the lure of a potential romantic partner, lottery winnings, real estate rentals and purchases, car sales or employment opportunities -- none of which existed in real life. Other scams involved identity theft and fraudulent tax returns. Many of the victims were elderly individuals, but businesses were also targeted. Law enforcement seized nearly $3.7 million from the arrests. The amount of money stolen from people and businesses was significantly higher, the DOJ said.

"The Department of Justice has increased efforts in taking aggressive enforcement action against fraudsters who are targeting American citizens and their businesses in business email compromise schemes and other cyber-enabled financial crimes," Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said in a statement. "Anyone who engages in deceptive practices like this should know they will not go undetected and will be held accountable."

The FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center has an online form for anyone who believes they may be a victim of such a scam.

Last year, the FBI arrested 74 alleged scammers across the globe on charges of cyber-related financial fraud.