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Nigerian, Interpol Agents Collaborate In Arrest Of Top Cyber Scammer

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

We all know by now that if you receive an email from a Nigerian prince asking you to send money, well, don't. This kind of fraud still happens all the time to individuals and businesses. Today Nigeria's anti-fraud agency and Interpol announced they got the kingpin of a global scamming network worth some $60 million. From Lagos, NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton has the story.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: In Nigeria, they're known as 419 scams, named after the anti-graft law here. The West African giant is reputed to be behind a good deal of online fraud. However, it's not small-time scammers Nigeria's Anti-Corruption Agency and Interpol say they've arrested. Identified simply as 40-year-old Mike, who was detained in Nigeria's oil capital, Port Harcourt, the authorities say the suspect was running a global criminal enterprise spanning almost a dozen countries, including the U.S.

The suspect and his team of 40 accomplices reportedly conned businesses out of millions of dollars. Gary Miller set up the London-based International Fraud Group to assist clients targeted by cyber fraudsters.

GARY MILLER: I'm really impressed and surprised that the Nigerian and Interpol authorities have collaborated to actually arrest someone. Normally in these kinds of scams, it's virtually impossible to find out where the people are based.

QUIST-ARCTON: Miller says much bigger cyber conmen are almost impossible to track down, and the arrest of the fraud suspect in Nigeria won't stop this sort of scam.

MILLER: Oh, not at all. In fact I would think there are a number of cyber scammers who are looking at this guy and thinking that he's a complete buffoon for being caught because most of them operate out of zombie servers in remote countries where the criminal investigation services are under-resourced and there's no chance of ever being able to track it to them.

QUIST-ARCTON: Gary Miller says the knowledge and know-how gleaned leading to the arrest in Nigeria is useful and should be shared with other police forces around the world. Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Lagos. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.