ACH Fraud , Fraud Management & Cybercrime , Incident & Breach Response

How the FBI Helped Recover Millions from Wire Fraud

Special Agent Gunther on Value of Cross-Border Collaboration
How the FBI Helped Recover Millions from Wire Fraud
Charles Gunther, FBI special agent

FBI Special Agent Charles Gunther says collaboration with FinCEN, international law enforcement and U.S. banks has helped the FBI in the past year recover millions of funds stolen from customers via emerging wire fraud schemes.

"We realize that the wiring schemes have been growing exponentially," says Gunther, program coordinator of complex financial crimes for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a featured presenter at Information Security Media Group's Sept. 15 Fraud Summit San Francisco. "We have developed some streamlined procedures."

Recovery hinges on defrauded businesses contacting law enforcement as soon as suspicious activity - namely wire fraud - is detected, he says.

"We have developed a mechanism where if a victim comes to us quickly, we can reach out to their bank and to the corresponding bank to see if the funds have gone further than the first wire transfer; and, if so, whether those funds can be pulled back," Gunther says. "We've had some very good success with this now. The key is that the victim has to determine that they're a victim and report it."

Many business victims are in denial of fraud, Gunther says, and waiting even 24 hours to report an incident, once it is discovered, can greatly damage law enforcement's ability to recoup funds.

Cross-border collaboration, orchestrated through FinCEN, has greatly helped the FBI in its work to recover stolen funds and track the cybercriminals behind the schemes, Gunther adds.

"International collaboration has improved mostly from the amount of communication that we have with our foreign partners," he says. "The FBI has legal attaché offices in many countries around the world, and that has increased our ability to work with the foreign banks. Also, FinCEN has grown, and they're working much closer with international banks. So the whole thing that's improved is the communication and the willingness of all parties involved to work together to basically keep their clients from being defrauded."

During this interview, Gunther also discusses:

  • Emerging wire fraud schemes, such as business email compromise attacks;
  • Some of the biggest cybercrime trends, such as targeting institutions for intellectual data that impacts the stock market;
  • How hackers are using a mix of technology and basic social engineering to perfect their attacks.

Gunther has served as an FBI special agent for more than 19 years. As a supervisory special agent in the San Francisco Field Office of the FBI, Gunther manages a team of agents, intelligence analysts and others who investigate corporate and securities fraud, mortgage fraud, healthcare fraud, bank fraud and bankruptcy fraud. Prior to assignment in San Francisco, Gunther worked in Washington as the acting section chief of cyber-intelligence, responsible for the review, analysis and dissemination of all FBI cyber-intelligence.

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