113 people detained and 70 arrested in action day tackling airline fraud

Credit card fraud is a key facilitator for other crimes
Credit card fraud is a key facilitator for other crimes

On  8 and 9 April 2014 law enforcement agencies from across the world, supported by  the European Cybercrime Centre (EC3)   at Europol, joined forces with the airline, travel and credit card  industries in the largest ever attack upon online fraud and illegal  immigration.  Rapid increases in Internet-facilitated  crime have left millions of innocent people affected every year whilst the banking,  airline and travel industries have suffered huge financial losses as a direct  result.

This initiative – the  second of its kind – took place at 68 airports in 32 countries worldwide, including  24 EU Member States, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, the USA, Colombia, Brazil,  Peru and Ukraine. In an unprecedented  move, representatives from 35 airlines and major credit card companies Visa  Europe, MasterCard and American Express worked with staff from Europol’s EC3, law enforcement officers from across the EU, the US Secret Service, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Colombian national police at  Europol’s operational centre to identify suspicious airline ticket transactions  resulting from the use of fake or stolen credit cards via the Internet. On receipt of alerts from airlines, credit  card company representatives confirmed suspicions using their own financial  data systems, and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) provided fraud  intelligence from its database. Notifications  were sent to transport hubs across the world as waiting enforcement officers intercepted  and detained criminals attempting to travel using fraudulently obtained flight  tickets.

Further support was  received on the day from the EU border control agency, Frontex, and the European  Union’s Judicial Cooperation Unit, Eurojust.   Playing a pivotal role in the operation, Europol deployed specialists  and equipment to locations across Europe.   In addition, a dedicated team of analysts working from the Europol operational  centre provided live access to centralised criminal intelligence databases,  whilst INTERPOL assisted in the rapid identification of wanted persons and  stolen travel documents.

During  the operation more than 265 suspicious transactions were reported. 113  individuals were detained and 70 were arrested in Austria, Bulgaria, Colombia,  Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania,  the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland,  the United Kingdom and the USA.

Credit  card fraud was also highlighted as a key facilitator for other forms of serious  crime, as investigations revealed that some of those detained had links to other  criminal activities such as theft, fraud, illegal immigration, sex crimes and  drug offences.

Rob Wainwright
Europol Director, Rob Wainwright

“This unprecedented operation  clearly shows how crime is evolving on a global scale, with huge implications  for citizens, businesses and our collective security. But it also shows how the  combined forces of the international police community and the private sector  are capable of delivering major successes against the criminal syndicates  responsible for committing large scale fraud and other offences. Europol pays  tribute to all partners involved in this groundbreaking operation”, said  Europol’s Director Rob Wainwright.

The  operation, coordinated on an international level by the European Cybercrime  Centre (EC3) at Europol, was the culmination of many months of  meticulous planning between law enforcement, prosecuting and border control  agencies, airlines and credit card companies.

“For many years, organised 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. Not only have law enforcement agents from several countries  worked shoulder to shoulder with EC3 specialists in Europol’s operational  centre for several days, but we have also involved experts from the private  sector such as airlines and payment services. This flawless cooperation also  included frontline law enforcement staff in 68 airports all over Europe and  beyond. This successful operation is a 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”, said Troels  Oerting, Head of the European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) at Europol.

Europol Website