The FBI has arrested 60 suspects accused of using hi-tech software to hack into online bank accounts to steal millions, officials announced today.
The sophisticated ring used a computer program called "Zeus Trojan Virus" to access and steal codes of online banking customers, feds said.
Dozens of individuals, companies and banks were targeted and officials said more than $3 million was stolen.
The money was then wired into a U.S.-based account and then moved overseas to Russia and other eastern European locations, officials said.
Investigators said millions of dollars were stolen from unsuspecting customers. Federal agents were seen searching Brooklyn buildings along 82nd Street in Dyker Heights and at 1871 Coleman Street in Marine Park, neighbors said.
"Sophisticated phishing by the hackers resulted in numerous victim entities unwittingly importing the Zeus virus into their computers," said FBI N.Y. Director Jan Fedarcyk. "This enabled the hackers to monitor keystrokes entered into victims’ computers, thereby allowing these cyber 'Willie Suttons' to steal user names, passwords and other access data."
Numerous defendants are from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and other eastern European countries, officials said.
Among the dozens of people charged, Konstantin Akobirov, Adel Gataullin, Ruslan Kovtanyuk and Natalaia Demina allegedly helped steal thousands from account after account, officials said. (See photos of wanted here.)
The FBI said college students in the U.S. on J-1 visas were often recruited to serve as "mules." US attorney Preet Bharara said the students were recruited on social networking sites and were paid by hackers to open bogus US bank accounts. The stolen funds wired into those accounts were withdrawn by the 'mules' and sent via Western Union or air mail overseas.
"This advanced cybercrime scheme is a disturbing example of organized crime in the 21st Century -- high tech and widespread," Vance said.
The arrests in New York came one day after British authorities arrested 19 people for running a similar hacking scam.
Bharara and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance joined FBI officials in announcing details of this bank scam at a news conference Thursday afternoon.
Bharara said called it "high-tech bank robbery" where the "click of a mouse can be more effective than a gun and a mask."
The suspects are expected to appear on the bank fraud counts in Manhattan federal court.