Europol Leads Crackdown on Air Ticket Fraud

Europol is celebrating after an international operation led to the detention of 130 suspected air ticket fraudsters.

Organized through three operation centers – Europol in The Hague, Interpol in Singapore, and Ameripol in Bogota – the crackdown took place in 140 airports across 49 countries worldwide.

The operation required co-ordination between airlines, issuing banks, payment card schemes, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and law enforcement.

Police stationed in the affected airports on 16 and 17 June were fed information by payment providers, card companies and IATA concerning suspicious looking transactions. Officers then intercepted the relevant passengers before they could board their plane, according to Europol.

A total of 222 suspicious transactions were flagged for investigation, with 130 people detained – 101 in Europe, 11 in APAC, 10 in Latin America, two in the US and six in Canada.

It was discovered that many of those detained have been involved in even more serious crimes including human trafficking, illegal immigration, drug smuggling, cybercrime and terrorism.

The airline industry faces losses in excess of €1bn from ticketing fraud, with criminals often using card details stolen via large scale data breaches, Europol said.

“Once again the operation was successful and proved worthwhile,” claimed Meta Backman, from the European Airlines Fraud Prevention Group.

“As a result of these actions, airlines can already see improved cooperation with card issuing banks, card schemes and law enforcement in their daily fight against credit card fraud. Without the determination and effort of Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) this could not have happened.”

Security consultant, Brian Honan, a special adviser on internet security to EC3, argued that the operation shows how effective cross border and industry co-operation can be.

“Of particular note is how police forces around the world were involved with Europol acting as the hub to coordinate the various actions,” he told Infosecurity.

“This operation is the most recent of its kind to target airline ticket fraudsters and it’s interesting to note that lessons learnt from previous operations have been applied to make this operation effective. This is an encouraging development and as more operations of this type are carried out we will see more effective operations against cyber-criminals.”

What’s Hot on Infosecurity Magazine?