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Hundreds Arrested in Mass-Marketing Scam

More than 560 people are arrested in an investigation of mass-marketing fraud schemes that victimized more than 2 million Americans, according to the Justice Department. The scams were carried out over the Internet, through telemarketing, and via direct mail. Officials say losses exceed $1 billion.

"The results of Operation Global Con have been dramatic," said Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. But the nation's chief prosecutor said he shares credit for the sweeping arrests with his counterparts in Canada, Costa Rica, the Netherlands, and Spain. He said they've all been working hard to arrest internet con men in this big global operation.

At a press conference announcing the arrests, Gonzales and Federal Trade Commission chair Deborah Platt Majoras described the kinds of people that have been arrested and prosecuted. "Fraudulent telemarketers, spammers and con artists who defy national boundaries," Majoras said. And with today's technology, they can "strike from anywhere in the world. And prey on our U.S. consumers."

The 565 people arrested in Operation Global Con were not part of one huge scam operation. They represent a wide range of unaffiliated teams. One, based in Venezuela and Guatemala, fraudulently offered credit cards for a fee to Spanish-speaking Americans. Another ring, based in Toronto, Canada, sold fake business directory listings. A third in Costa Rica sold fake beverage business opportunities to Americans.

Postmaster General John Potter said that by arresting all these different scam artists, this operation represents a turning point in international crime. "Operation Global Con is a reversal of fortune of international swindlers," Potter said.

But Operation Global Con is being dramatically oversold, says Audri Lanford. The director of Scambusters, an anti-scam newsletter, Lanford says that nearly 600 arrests are great. "But clearly this is a drop in the bucket," she added, "in terms of where Internet scams are."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Adam Davidson
Adam Davidson is a contributor to Planet Money, a co-production of NPR and This American Life. He also writes the weekly "It's the Economy" column for the New York Times Magazine.