A federal crackdown on a wide range of Internet fraud schemes costing victims an estimated $100 million has resulted in the arrest or conviction of 125 individuals, law enforcement officials said Thursday.

The investigation, dubbed "Operation Cyber Sweep," targets such crimes as stolen credit card numbers, software piracy and the sale of stolen goods over the Internet, said Attorney General John Ashcroft.

"Online criminals assume that they can conduct their schemes with impunity," Ashcroft said. "Operation Cyber Sweep is proving them wrong, by piercing the criminals' cloak of anonymity and prosecuting them to the fullest extent of the law."

The investigation, begun on Oct. 1, has uncovered about 125,000 victims with losses topping $100 million. Seventy indictments to date have led to arrests or convictions of 125 people, with more expected as the probe continues.

The cases range from a Virginia woman who sent fake e-mails to America Online customers asking them to update their credit card numbers to a disgruntled Philadelphia Phillies fan who hacked into computers nationwide and launched spam e-mails criticizing the baseball team.

The crackdown stemmed from indications that Internet fraud continues to rise. The Internet Fraud Complaint Center, run in part by the FBI, referred some 58,000 complaints to law enforcement in the first nine months of 2003 - compared with 48,000 for all of 2002.

source: silicon valley

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