193 de­tained in global ac­tion against air­line fraud­sters

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

193 in­di­vid­u­als sus­pected of trav­el­ling with air­line tick­ets bought us­ing stolen, com­pro­mised or fake credit card de­tails have been de­tained in a ma­jor in­ter­na­tional law en­force­ment op­er­a­tion tar­get­ing air­line fraud­sters. 43 coun­tries, 75 air­lines and 8 on­line travel agen­cies were in­volved in this global op­er­a­tion which took place at 189 air­ports across the world from 10 to 15 Oc­to­ber 2016.

Europol said that Malta was also in­volved in the ac­tion, in an undis­closed ca­pac­ity.

The air­line in­dus­try is es­ti­mated to lose over one bil­lion dol­lars per year as a re­sult of the fraud­u­lent on­line pur­chases of flight tick­ets. Fraud­u­lent on­line trans­ac­tions are highly lu­cra­tive for or­gan­ised crime and are of­ten pur­chased to fa­cil­i­tate more se­ri­ous crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties in­clud­ing il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, traf­fick­ing in hu­man be­ings, drug smug­gling and ter­ror­ism.

The fifth Global Air­port Ac­tion Day was or­gan­ised through co­or­di­na­tion cen­tres at Europol in The Hague, INTERPOL Global Com­plex for In­no­va­tion in Sin­ga­pore and Ameripol in Bo­gota and was sup­ported by Cana­dian and US law en­force­ment agen­cies. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from air­lines, on­line travel agen­cies, pay­ment card com­pa­nies, Perseuss and the In­ter­na­tional Air Trans­port As­so­ci­a­tion (IATA) worked to­gether with ex­perts from Europol’s Euro­pean Cy­ber­crime Cen­tre (EC3) to iden­tify sus­pi­cious trans­ac­tions and pro­vide con­fir­ma­tion to law en­force­ment of­fi­cers de­ployed in the air­ports. Euro­just as­sisted through­out the ac­tion week, to­gether with the Euro­pean Border and Coast Guard Agency (Fron­tex) which de­ployed of­fi­cers to 20 air­ports, as­sist­ing in the de­tec­tion of iden­tity fraud, fake doc­u­ments and ir­reg­u­lar mi­gra­tion.

For the first time, this global op­er­a­tion lasted for five con­sec­u­tive days. Law en­force­ment is now tack­ling this in­ter­na­tional phe­nom­e­non on a daily ba­sis in close co­op­er­a­tion with the pri­vate sec­tor. This has en­hanced the trust be­tween all in­volved par­ties and will con­tinue to in­flict dam­age to the crim­i­nals in­volved in air­line ticket fraud.

Dur­ing the op­er­a­tion, 350 sus­pi­cious trans­ac­tions were re­ported. As a re­sult, 193 peo­ple were de­tained, de­nied board­ing, ques­tioned by po­lice and charged crim­i­nally. In­ves­ti­ga­tions are on­go­ing. Sev­eral peo­ple were caught try­ing to traf­fic drugs from Latin Amer­ica to Europe, fre­quently fly­ing back and forth us­ing fraud­u­lently pur­chased tick­ets.

Crime-as-a-Ser­vice, the re­cent trend in all forms of se­ri­ous or­gan­ised crime, has now also ap­peared in the travel sec­tor. Law en­force­ment has tar­geted fake on­line travel agen­cies, spe­cial­is­ing in pur­chas­ing air­line tick­ets with stolen or fake credit card de­tails for other crim­i­nals, pro­vid­ing them a ser­vice. One crim­i­nal en­ter­prise of­fered fi­nan­cial ser­vices, fraud­u­lently pur­chased tick­ets and fake doc­u­ments. Dur­ing the ac­tion sev­eral book­ings for dif­fer­ent des­ti­na­tions were linked to the same crim­i­nal or­gan­i­sa­tion. In ad­di­tion, pas­sen­gers should take care when pur­chas­ing air­line tick­ets on­line and be cau­tious of deals that are too good to be true.

Know the crime: air­line ticket fraud

The use of com­pro­mised credit card de­tails is an in­creas­ingly high vol­ume crime, with tens of thou­sands of crim­i­nal com­plaints in many EU coun­tries. An in­crease in Card-Not-Present (CNP) fraud is ap­par­ent across al­most all sec­tors; the pur­chases of phys­i­cal goods, air­line tick­ets, car rentals and ac­com­mo­da­tion with com­pro­mised cards has seen a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease through­out the EU Air­line com­pa­nies are among the most af­fected by CNP fraud.

Europol’s Direc­tor Rob Wain­wright says: “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. 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.”

“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. It also high­lights the role of co­op­er­a­tion be­tween law en­force­ment and pri­vate in­dus­try part­ners,” said INTERPOL Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Jür­gen Stock.

“Once again Europol has sup­ported the air­line in­dus­try in our fight against on­line fraud. By or­ga­niz­ing an op­er­a­tion in­volv­ing air­lines, on­line travel agen­cies, card schemes, law en­force­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives and oth­ers Europol has helped the in­dus­try on a global scale. The find­ings of this op­er­a­tion have shown that there is more to on­line fraud than just fi­nan­cial losses. The air­lines are look­ing for con­tin­ued co­op­er­a­tion with all par­ties of this Ac­tion”, com­ments Meta Back­man, Chair of the Euro­pean Air­line Fraud Pre­ven­tion Group.

Aleks Popovich, IATA’s Se­nior Vice Pres­i­dent, Fi­nan­cial and Distri­bu­tion Ser­vices, states: “Fraud against the air­line in­dus­try re­mains a se­ri­ous is­sue and IATA will con­tinue to be at the fore­front of ef­forts through its In­dus­try Fraud Pre­ven­tion strat­egy and pro­gramme of ac­tiv­i­ties. The aim is to pre­vent fraud and re­duce its im­pact on air­lines and pas­sen­gers. Global Days of Ac­tion tack­ling ticket fraud have be­come an ex­tremely im­por­tant part of these ef­forts. IATA is once again proud to part­ner with Europol and Air­lines, lead­ing to a very suc­cess­ful out­come. We look for­ward to fu­ture co­op­er­a­tion in plan­ning and ex­e­cut­ing these global op­er­a­tions.”

This global op­er­a­tion against air­line fraud­sters is part of Op­er­a­tion Ci­co­nia Alba, the third EUwide Joint Ac­tion Days tak­ing place within the EU Pol­icy Cy­cle for or­gan­ised and se­ri­ous in­ter­na­tional crime. The in­tel­li­genceled op­er­a­tional ac­tions tak­ing place in the frame­work of this op­er­a­tion cover sev­eral crime ar­eas whilst fo­cus­ing on key crim­i­nal hotspots and key crim­i­nal in­fra­struc­ture in the EU and be­yond.

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