On 16 and 17 June another joint operation conducted by law enforcement worldwide allowed the arrest of 130 individuals. The authorities operated at 140 airports in 49 countries on five continents, the investigators found the suspects in possession of airline tickets bought with stolen credit card data.
The operation involved agents of three coordination centers at Europol in The Hague, Interpol in Singapore and Ameripol in Bogota. Canadian and US law enforcement agencies also supported the activities. This effort against airline fraudsters is part of a wider Operation Blue Amber conducted by polices worldwide.
Criminal organizations are increasingly adopting purchases of flight tickets as cash out mechanism resulting in huge losses (estimated at EUR 1 billion) for airline companies and victims of credit card frauds.
“Since airline ticket fraud is a complex and global phenomenon posing certain security issues, targeting the organised crime groups active in this are requires communication between airlines, issuing banks, payment card schemes, IATA and law enforcement on an international level.” states the report published by the Europol.
The operation requested the collaboration of 33 airlines and 5 travel agencies in Europe, which was the victims of the frauds. During the two-day operation the law enforcement established a command post at the Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) that hosted representatives of the authorities from airlines, and major credit card companies.
The pool has worked to identify fraudulent activities at the airports, during the operation 222 suspicious transactions were discovered and 130 persons were detained by police.
“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 organised crime gangs involved in this large-scale fraud and other offences. Along with our partners, we are committed to continue developing new levels of cooperation and new methods for fighting this type of crime,” said Wil van Gemert, Deputy Director Operations at Europol.
The experts highlighted how fraudulently purchasing plane tickets online using compromised credit cards is a facilitator of other forms of crime.
“One of the lessons learned from previous editions is that, although this global action targets criminals suspected of fraudulently purchasing plane tickets online using compromised credit cards, in many cases it was shown how airline fraud is a facilitator of other forms of crime. During the global operation on 16 and 17 June the individuals arrested were involved in other forms of crimes, including trafficking of human beings, illegal immigration, smuggling of goods, drug trafficking, fraud, cybercrime and terrorism. In this sense, this type of action is effective in uncovering other forms of serious crime, providing added security at the airports.”
Fraud represents a significant cost for the airline industry, for this reason the success of law enforcement against airline fraudsters is even more important for both private companies and passengers.
“Fraud represents a significant cost burden for the airline industry, a cost that ends up being passed on to all passengers. Hence, IATA takes a particular interest in all initiatives designed to challenge fraudsters. We are proud to have supported Europol in planning and rolling out this global and hugely successful operation. This illustrates the type of close and trusted collaboration we want to build between the airline industry and law enforcement agencies worldwide.” said Aleks Popovich, IATA Senior Vice President, Financial and Distribution Services.
(Security Affairs – Europol, airline fraudsters)