Authorities in the US and Egypt have arrested about 100 individuals in an international phishing scheme, the FBI said on Wednesday.
The suspects were indicted by a grand jury in California following a two-year investigation code-named Phish Phry that was thought to be the largest cybercrime investigation in the US.
According to the FBI, 53 of those arrested were in the US, and 47 in Egypt. The 51-count indictment charged all of the defendants with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud. Some of those named were also charged with aggravated identity theft, unauthorized access to protected computers and money laundering.
The suspects in Egypt were alleged to have sent false emails that tricked thousands of recipients into revealing their bank account numbers and related personal data. The information was then used to break into customer accounts at two US banks, Bank of America and Wells Fargo. The US conspirators used the data to transfer funds ranging from a few hundred dollars to $2,000 from the compromised accounts to newly created fraudulent accounts.
"The sophistication with which Phish Phry defendants operated represents an evolving and troubling paradigm in the way identity theft is now committed," FBI official Keith Bolcar said in a statement. "Criminally savvy groups recruit here and abroad to pool
tactics and skills necessary to commit organized theft facilitated by the computer, including hacking, fraud and identity theft, with a common greed and shared willingness to victimize Americans."
All of the individuals charged in the US face prison terms of up to 20 years if they are convicted.