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10 April 2014

Operation to tackle airline ticket fraud supported by INTERPOL

THE HAGUE, The Netherlands – More than 180 people were arrested or detained during an operation, coordinated by Europol and supported by INTERPOL, at airports across Europe and the Americas to tackle credit card fraud and illegal immigration.

The two-day (8 and 9 April) operation involved law enforcement agencies from across the world, with support from the European Cybercrime Centre (EC3), INTERPOL, the EU border control agency Frontex, and Eurojust. Working in partnership with the airline, travel and payment card industries, the operation targeted suspicious online airline ticket transactions using fake or stolen credit cards.

The initiative took place at more than 68 airports in 32 countries: 24 EU member countries plus Brazil, Colombia, Iceland, Norway, Peru, Switzerland, Ukraine and the US. Representatives from 35 airlines worked directly with the EC3, police agencies across the European Union, US Secret Service, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Colombian National Police and payment card companies Visa Europe, MasterCard and American Express to identify suspicious airline ticket sales made via the Internet.

After receiving alerts from airlines of more than 265 suspicious transactions, payment card companies reviewed the transactions using their own financial data systems, and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) provided fraud intelligence. Notifications were sent to airports across the world, where police detained criminals attempting to travel using fraudulently obtained flight tickets.

INTERPOL assisted in the identification of wanted persons and stolen travel documents via its criminal databases, in particular the Stolen and Lost Travel Documents (SLTD) database. All alerts of suspicious passengers were checked against INTERPOL’s databases, resulting in the arrest of a Brazilian national traveling from London to Malaga, Spain who was a convicted child abuser and the subject of a Green Notice issued by the US.

Glyn Lewis, INTERPOL’s Director of Specialized Crime and Analysis, said hundreds of thousands of airline bookings are made online every day and the ticket issuer often has no way to verify the authenticity of the payment card being used, thus presenting a risk of fraud.

“It is only by such coordinated, targeted and intensive checks being carried out simultaneously that the potential fraudulent use of credit cards can be detected,” he added.
Payment card fraud was also highlighted as a key facilitator of other serious crimes, as investigations revealed that some of those detained had links to other criminal activities including theft, illegal immigration, sex crimes and drug offences.
“For many years, organized cybercriminal networks have relied on the assumption that law enforcement agencies could not work together in cyberspace and act quickly and effectively. This operation again proves them wrong,” said Troels Oerting, Head of Europol’s EC3.

“This successful operation is milestone for all involved – law enforcement and private partners – and marks another goal accomplished in fighting cybercrime, a threat which is global by its very nature,” he concluded.