November 2, 2006 9:00 PM PST

FBI nabs phishers in U.S., Eastern Europe

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The FBI plans on Friday to announce the arrest of at least 16 individuals in connection with a global cybercrime investigation.

More than 20 FBI offices participated in the probe into a series of phishing attacks against a "major financial institution" that occurred in 2004 between August and October, according to materials provided by the FBI ahead of the announcement. Agents conducted investigations inside the U.S. and other countries to identify a ring of identity thieves who were acquiring and trading stolen credit and debit card numbers through an online forum.

The investigation targeted both hackers, who compromised about 50 servers in order to launch the phishing attacks, and those who sought to acquire stolen financial data. Phishing is an online scam in which individuals are tricked into providing personal information in response to e-mails that appear to be coming from legitimate sources.

Three arrests have been made inside the U.S., and 11 were made in Poland. Additional arrests are expected to come out of an investigation in Romania, where FBI agents are still monitoring suspects.

"Cybercriminals will no longer be able to hide behind borders to conduct their illicit business. There will be no safe haven for cybercrime," James Finch, assistant director of the FBI's Cyber Division, said in a statement. Several spin-off investigations have resulted from the initial inquiry, he said.

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