FBI Arrests Dozens in 'Phishing' Fraud

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Dozens of identity thieves are behind bars Thursday after the FBI cracked one of the largest cyber crime investigations to date.

Criminals in two countries ripped off millions of dollars from thousands of Bank of America and Wells Fargo customers by stealing their passwords through a method called "phishing."

More than 100 arrests are expected to be made.
   
When FBI agents searched the home of Kenneth Lucas, they found what appeared to be a marijuana growing operation, but that was just the beginning. Agents also discovered computer equipment-- leading to the biggest cyber crime bust in U.S. history.

Lucas and 42 other people in California, Nevada and North Carolina, were arrested in what was called "Operation Phish Phry."

"The sophistication with which these defendants operated represents an evolving and troubling paradigm in a way grand theft and identity theft is now committed," said Keith Bolcar, acting assistant director of the FBI in Los Angeles, Calif.

Victims thought they were getting an email from their bank indicating a problem with their account.
   
They were told to update their information within three days or their accounts would be frozen.  The emails, however, were fake and actually coming from Egypt.

"With simple tools such as an internet browser, cyber criminals can reach across borders and prey upon unsuspecting victims who have no idea their identities and money are going to thieves in another country," said U.S. Attorney for Cyber Crime, Wes Hsu.

Once the hackers had the codes, the Egyptian conspirators accessed bank accounts, passwords, pins and credit card numbers. 

That information was then sent back to California, Nevada and North Carolina, where dummy accounts were allegedly set up, and the victim's real accounts were emptied.
      
More than 100 people in the U.S. and Egypt have been indicted and the FBI said the two banks have lost up to $2 million so far.  It's unclear how many victims there may be.

"Lots of people are too quick to click," Bolcar added.

The FBI says arrests are continuing and each suspect faces up to 20 years in prison.

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