Euro Police Target Gangs Grooming Ukrainian Refugees Online

European police are trawling online platforms for evidence of human trafficking after warning that crime groups are grooming Ukrainian refugees via websites and social media.

Coordinated by Dutch police, the EMPACT joint action day saw law enforcers from 14 EU member states search 125 online platforms for evidence of criminality.

Europol claimed 42 of these are suspected of being used by human traffickers looking to recruit vulnerable women from the war-torn country.

A wide variety of websites and posts were monitored, including those offering transportation, accommodation and work for refugees; dating and recruitment sites; and platforms offering sexual services.

“The countries bordering Ukraine focused on recruitment, transportation and accommodation of refugees, while others focused on platforms offering housing and jobs to refugees,” Europol explained.

“During the action day, investigators identified suspicious advertisements targeting Ukrainian refugees, looked into tips received from citizens, reviewed indicators of potential trafficking of human beings for sexual and labour exploitation and updated their situational awareness on existing online platforms linked to trafficking activities.”

Police apparently uncovered a number of suspicious-looking offers for new jobs or accommodation that they suspect were designed to trick individuals into sexual exploitation.

In total, nine suspected human traffickers and victims were identified, and 15 new investigations were opened.

Human trafficking remains one of 22 predicate offenses linked to money laundering, according to the EU. However, the financial institutions tasked with uncovering such crimes through money trails are largely failing, according to experts.

A BAE Systems Digital Intelligence report out earlier this year claimed that 76% of compliance officers believe anti-money laundering compliance has become little more than a box-ticking exercise, and 62% said criminal activity is getting harder to spot.

The FBI has in the past published alerts warning that traffickers increasingly use online platforms and services to recruit their victims.

What’s Hot on Infosecurity Magazine?