The Federal Bureau of Investigation says an increasing number of its cases involving white collar crime, cyber crime and securities fraud are international. In New York, FBI officials discussed efforts to coordinate with foreign governments and international law enforcement to investigate these crimes. Mona Ghuneim has the story.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation says disappearing trade barriers, the global nature of banking today and the Internet are the main reasons why crime cases are becoming more and more international.
The FBI says international cooperation is essential in investigating everything from terrorist use of the Internet to mortgage fraud to fake charitable websites.
Special Agent Teresa Carlson works in the FBI's White Collar Crime Division in New York. She says cyber crimes know no boundaries.
"We rely upon our partners overseas. We have legal attaches in 59 countries, which means FBI personnel are stationed in those countries," she said. "They cover over 200 countries, I believe, right now and they assist us in getting things done overseas."
Special Agent Ben Berry says the legal attaches stationed abroad help to establish direct contacts with foreign law enforcement authorities as well as to facilitate travel for FBI agents.
Berry says he has seen an increase in worldwide counterfeit scams, credit card fraud, identity theft, and even lottery schemes.
"When I first joined the FBI, it was quite a big deal for an agent to travel from New York to Los Angeles," he said. "Now it's routine for an agent in New York to travel halfway across the world."
In general, Berry says, international cooperation has been efficient and forthcoming. While alliances have improved, particularly in Eastern Europe, Russia, Ukraine and West Africa, the Internet still poses a lot of problems.
Berry says the Internet makes it easier for a perpetrator 6,000 miles away to target victims in the United States. He says the World Wide Web allows a crime to happen instantly and that time differences can give the perpetrator an advantage.
"The nature of banking is such where money can be wire-transferred instantaneously," said Ben. "And given the differences in time zones, oftentimes it makes it very difficult for us to get that money back in any expeditious way, if we can get the money back at all."
One of the problems, according to the FBI, is the time delay involved when seeking information from overseas Internet service providers. Often times, these Internet providers are not subject to the same laws and subpoena rights as in the United States.
The agents say the FBI will continue to partner with international law enforcement and strengthen reciprocal alliances to help expedite information.
But they also say that people should use sound judgment in providing any personal information. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.