LYON, France – A global law enforcement operation targeting online fraud in the airline sector has led to the detention and investigation of 133 individuals suspected of using stolen payment card details to purchase airline tickets.
The two-day (3 and 4 November) operation was organized globally by Europol through its European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) in The Hague, the Netherlands, with support from INTERPOL through its General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon, France, Ameripol in Bogota and Canadian law enforcement authorities.
The coordinated action targeted criminals suspected of fraudulently purchasing plane tickets online using stolen or fake payment card data. Law enforcement joined forces with the airline, travel and payment card industries to tackle this growing type of online fraud.
Representatives from airlines, online travel agencies and major payment card companies worked at Europol’s operational centre with experts from Europol’s EC3 and law enforcement officers from across Europe, Latin America, the US and Canada to identify suspicious airline ticket transactions resulting from the use of fake or stolen credit or debit cards.
Some 35 airlines and 32 countries were involved in this initiative, which took place at 109 airports worldwide. During the operation, more than 162 suspicious transactions were reported and 133 individuals detained.
Europol Director Rob Wainwright said: “This operation was the culmination of many months of meticulous planning between Europol, law enforcement, prosecuting and border control agencies, airlines and credit card companies, and is a perfect example of how our combined forces can track down the criminal syndicates responsible for committing large scale fraud and other offences.”
Through the support of specialized officers in its Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes unit and its liaison bureau at Europol, INTERPOL assisted with the rapid identification of wanted persons and stolen travel documents detected throughout the operation by conducting checks against the Organization’s criminal databases.
“This successful initiative highlights the importance of a coordinated response, involving law enforcement and the private sector, to identify and intercept criminals attempting to travel using tickets obtained through fraud,” said Jim Anderson, Head of INTERPOL’s Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes unit.
Links between payment card fraud and other forms of serious crime such as drug trafficking and human trafficking were detected during the operation. The increasing role of fake online travel agencies as a facilitating factor was also reported.