Italy arrests 26 for phishing operation

Italian authorities have arrested 26 people for their alleged involvement in a phishing scam, the country's financial authority said late last week.

Italy has become the latest country to clamp down on phishing, with authorities there arresting 26 people for an alleged scam to swindle bank customers.

According to a statement by one of those arrested, the scam involved sending fraudulent e-mails that appeared to come from Poste Italiane, the country's postal operator, which also offers bank accounts, insurance and loans, according to a news release (in Italian) from the Guardia di Finanza, which handles financial crimes.

The e-mails urged victims to hand over sensitive financial information, which was then used to draw money from their accounts, the finance authority said. Eighteen of those arrested are Italian citizens, with the remainder from Eastern European countries.

Phishing scams are generally difficult to trace, since the fraudulent e-mails are often sent from computers that have been hacked. Those computers may also be in different countries than the hackers and the victims.

But fraud management officials from Poste Italiane and the finance authority monitored transaction papers used to empty the accounts, initially in the Milan area and then throughout the country, they said.

Countries around the world have been trying to clamp down on phishing as the number of Web sites used to entrap victims continues to increase.

Police in Japan made their first arrest for phishing early last year. The person was accused of illegally obtaining IDs and passwords for Yahoo Auctions and using them to resell goods worth tens of thousands of dollars. At around the same time, authorities in Bulgaria arrested eight people for phishing scam that targeted users of Microsoft's MSN service. Phishing-related arrests have also been made in the United States.

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