SINGAPORE – Some 193 individuals found in possession of plane tickets bought using stolen or compromised payment card details have been detained in an international law enforcement operation targeting airline fraudsters.
Involving 43 countries, 75 airlines and eight travel agencies, Global Airport Action Day was held at 189 airports across six days (10 - 15 October).
During the operation, 350 suspicious transactions were reported and several suspects intercepted attempting to traffic drugs from Latin America to Europe, frequently flying back and forth using fraudulently purchased tickets.
Fraudulent online transactions are highly lucrative for organized crime networks, and are often linked to other activities including illegal immigration, human trafficking, cybercrime and terrorism.
“Airline ticket fraud threatens security worldwide by potentially facilitating the international travel of criminals and terrorists. Global Airport Action Day is therefore an important collaborative initiative in disrupting the transnational organized criminal networks behind fraudulent airline ticket purchases and other criminal activities,” said INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock.
“It also highlights the role of cooperation between law enforcement and private industry partners,” added Mr Stock.
The operation was jointly coordinated by INTERPOL, Europol and Ameripol, and supported by Canadian and US law enforcement agencies, as well as by Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency.
“We cannot allow anyone, in particular serious criminals and terrorists, to travel around the world anonymously and to endanger others. The digital underground is underpinned by a mature Crime-as-a-Service model which continues to provide tools and services to people with criminal motivation,” said Europol’s Director Rob Wainwright.
“Together with our private partners we need to further extend these successful initiatives targeting fraud in the airline industry, fighting them on a daily basis, to make life as hard as possible for criminals.”
With the International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimating that the airline industry faces losses of USD 1 billion a year from ticket fraud, payment card issuers, IATA and Perseuss – the global travel industry’s fraud review platform – provided additional information on suspicious transactions during the operation.
INTERPOL coordinated activities across the Asia-Pacific and Middle East regions from the INTERPOL Global Complex for Innovation (IGCI) in Singapore, involving officers from its Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes unit, Global Outreach and Regional Support unit and at the Command and Coordination Centre at its General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon, France.
Representatives from airlines, online travel agencies and payment card companies also worked together with law enforcement to identify suspicious airline ticket purchases and send the information to law enforcement officers deployed at the participating airports.
The operation also uncovered the ‘crime-as-a-service’ activities of an Internet-based fake travel agency which provided illicit financial services, fraudulently purchased tickets and fake documents.
Additional checks were also conducted by INTERPOL against its global criminal databases, including for internationally wanted persons and Stolen and Lost Travel Documents (SLTD) which contains more than 68 million records.