2.8 Million Defrauded in Latest Schemes

Hundreds arrested in international fraud schemes.

More than 565 people on three continents have been arrested over the past year as part of an international operation targeting mass-marketing fraud schemes, the U.S. Justice Department said on Tuesday.

The department said about 2.8 million people had fallen victim to the fraud schemes that were carried out through the Internet, and by telemarketers.

Through "Operation Global Con," police in countries across North and South America and Europe have uncovered a number of scams and have arrested 565 people since March 1, 2005. The majority of the arrests were made in Spain, followed by the United States, Canada and the Netherlands.

Some of the schemes included sweepstakes fraud, when a victim is told he or she has won a large amount of money in a sweepstakes but must first pay bogus "fees" or "taxes" on the winnings. Once the victim sends the payment, no sweepstakes winnings are ever received.

Other scams include fake offers of "pre-approved" credit cards and loans, offers of nonexistent investments and tax fraud schemes.

About 2.8 million victims have suffered losses totaling more than $1 billion in relation to these fraud scams.

Officials said elderly people were often targets of the fraud because they are perceived to be more vulnerable and willing to believe the mail or telephone offers.

Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.

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