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Feds' Cybercrime Crackdown Yields 125 Arrests

Cybercrooks go 'phishing,' but it's law enforcement that nets some big catches.

A crackdown on Internet fraud schemes dubbed Operation Cyber Sweep has netted 125 arrests or convictions and more than 70 indictments, federal law-enforcement officials say.

The operation began Oct. 1 and involved more than 125,000 victims with losses estimated to exceed $100 million. Department of Justice officials said Thursday that more than 90 search-and-seizure warrants were conducted.

Operation Cyber Sweep targeted some of the most common online fraud schemes, including identity theft, international money laundering, theft of business trade secrets, auction fraud, Web-site-spoofing schemes, and cyberextortion. The operation was a coordinated effort among 34 U.S. attorneys, the FBI, the Federal Trade Commission, the Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Secret Service, and the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as other local, state, and foreign law-enforcement authorities.

The criminal charges stemming from Operation Cyber Sweep include a man in California who pleaded guilty to charges involving unauthorized use of access devices and conspiracy to possess counterfeit checks and a woman in Virginia who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess unauthorized access devices who allegedly sent fake E-mails to America Online subscribers telling them that they needed to update their personal and credit-card information on file with AOL, a scam known as "phishing."

Through September, the Internet Fraud Compliant Center, run jointly by the FBI and the National White-Collar Crime Center, reported 58,392 Internet-related fraud complaints to law enforcement. For all of 2002, the Internet Fraud Compliant Center referred roughly 48,000 such complaints.

According to FTC statistics, more than half of the 218,000 fraud complaints in received in 2002 were Internet-related.

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