Image: Deborah Platt Majoras, Alberto Gonzales
Caleb Jones  /  AP
Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Deborah Platt Majoras speaks as Attorney General Alberto Gonzales watches during a news conference at the Justice Department on Tuesday to discuss "Operation Global Con."
updated 5/23/2006 5:29:34 PM ET 2006-05-23T21:29:34

More than 2.8 million people in the U.S. paid to obtain credit cards, claim sweepstakes winnings and get in on lucrative investments that turned out to be too good to be true, officials said Tuesday as they announced hundreds of arrests in an international investigation.

Authorities in five countries have arrested 565 people in fraud schemes that netted more than $1 billion. Many of those arrested are west Africans who were attempting variations of the notorious Nigerian Internet scam, the Justice Department said.

Many of the victims were elderly or immigrants. One scam consisted of telephone calls to Spanish-speaking U.S. residents who were seeking to establish credit and were promised credit cards in return for a couple of hundred dollars. The cards didn’t exist, said Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Deborah Platt Majoras.

“Those that prey on consumers know their vulnerabilities,” Majoras said at a Justice Department news conference with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. “They zero in on those who will actually believe them.”

The scams were carried out through telemarketing, mass mailings and the Internet and included bogus lottery, prize and sweepstakes offerings, invitations to pour money into nonexistent investments and supposedly legal enticements to avoid paying taxes, officials said.

In the Nigerian scam, criminals send junk e-mail to thousands of unsuspecting people offering them a share in a large fortune in exchange for a smaller amount of money up front. The con artist takes the money and then disappears.

Gonzales called the 14-month investigation, dubbed Operation Global Con, “the largest enforcement operation of its kind.” It has so far resulted in 139 arrests and 61 convictions in the United States and another 426 arrests in Canada, Costa Rica, the Netherlands and Spain.

Last week, Costa Rican and U.S. authorities made arrests in a telephone-based scam in which prospective victims received offers of up to $4.5 million from the Sweepstakes Security Commission and other fictitious organizations. The winners first had to pay “insurance fees.” Some victims were contacted again, this time by people pretending to be customs officials who demanded additional payments, the department said.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

Data: Latest rates in the US

Home equity rates View rates in your area
Home equity type Today +/- Chart
$30K HELOC FICO 4.30%
$30K home equity loan FICO 4.99%
$75K home equity loan FICO 4.36%
Credit card rates View more rates
Card type Today +/- Last Week
Low Interest Cards 11.04%
11.04%
Cash Back Cards 16.44%
16.44%
Rewards Cards 16.04%
16.04%
Source: Bankrate.com