Authorities in the US and Egypt have charged 100 people in connection with a phishing scam that saw around $1.5 million stolen from the bank accounts of hundreds of victims.
US authorities yesterday arrested 33 of 53 defendants named in an indictment, while officials in Egypt have charged a further 47 people allegedly involved in the scam.
The charges are the cumulation of "Operation Phish Phry", which was launched in 2007 by the FBI working with US financial institutions. Intelligence gathered during the operation led the feds to instigate a joint investigation with counterparts in Egypt.
According to the indictment, the Egyptian-based hackers used phishing e-mails to redirect victims to fake bank sites and trick them into handing over account numbers and related personal identification information.
Once they had used this information to hack the accounts, the Egypt-based gang members coordinated with their co-conspirators in the US via text messages, telephone calls and Internet chat groups.
The alleged US ring leaders, Kenneth Joseph Lucas, Nichole Michelle Merzi and Jonathan Preston Clark, then used "runners," who set up bank accounts where the stolen funds could be transferred and withdrawn, says the FBI.
Some of the stolen money was then sent via wire transfer to the Egyptian members of the ring.
George Cardona, acting US Attorney, says: "This international phishing ring had a significant impact on two banks and caused huge headaches for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of bank customers."
Each of the 53 defendants named in the 51-count indictment is charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud, a charge that carries a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. Some of the defendants are named in additional counts that would increase their maximum possible sentences.