FBI nets huge phishing ring

More than 100 people charged in US and Egypt in connection with massive phishing scam

Barry Collins
8 Oct 2009

The FBI and Egyptian authorities have charged more than 100 people who took part in an international bank phishing scheme.

Operation Phishy Phry, which has seen 53 people charged in the States and a further 47 apprehended in Egypt, is being described as the biggest cybercrime investigation to date in the US.

The $2m scam saw Egyptian-based hackers obtain the account numbers and passwords of thousands of bank and credit-card customers through fake email messages. The Egyptians used the login details to hack into accounts at two US banks, and then transfer funds to newly-created accounts established by the team in the US.

The US ring - led by three men from California - allegedly recruited runners who set up the fake bank accounts, to where the money was transferred. A portion of the income was then diverted back to Egypt via wire services.

"The sophistication with which Phish Phry defendants operated represents an evolving and troubling paradigm in the way identity theft is now committed," says Keith Bolcar, acting assistant director of the FBI.

"Criminally savvy groups recruit here [in the US] and abroad to pool tactics and skills necessary to commit organised theft facilitated by the computer, including hacking, fraud and identity theft, with a common greed and shared willingness to victimise Americans."

The US defendants are facing a 51-count indictment including charges of bank fraud, aggravated identity theft and conspiracy to commit computer fraud.

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