Interpol Seizes $83 Million Headed for Online Scammers

Global police have concluded a months-long campaign in which they seized $83 million in funds headed for the bank accounts of cyber-criminals and scammers.

Interpol said that 40 officers from across APAC participated in the HAECHI-I operation over a six-month period. It focused specifically on investment fraud, romance scams, money laundering associated with illegal online gambling, online sextortion and voice phishing (vishing).

All have become major money-makers for threat actors of late. Romance and investment fraud were the number two and three earners last year, leading to combined losses of nearly $937 million, according to the FBI. Extortion ($71 million) and phishing and its variants ($51 million) were also high-up on the list.

Interpol claimed late last week that nearly two-thirds (64%) of the 1400 cases opened as part of HAECHI-I have been solved, with many others ongoing.

Some 585 individuals were arrested and over 1,600 global bank accounts frozen as part of the operation.

Interpol highlighted two particularly successful investigations: one involving a business email compromise (BEC) attempt when scammers impersonated a Korean company’s trading partner requesting payments amounting to nearly $7 million. Half of these were intercepted and frozen, the policing group said.

In another case, an organized crime gang ran a classic “pump-and-dump” scheme by buying up cheap stocks, promoting them on social media to drive the price up and then selling them. Interpol claimed its rapid response led to the freezing of the fraudulent trading accounts and recovery of most victims’ money.

“The key factors in intercepting illicit money transfers are speed and international cooperation,” said Amur Chandra, brigadier general of the Indonesian National Police and secretary of Indonesia’s Interpol National Central Bureau.

“The faster victims notify law enforcement, the faster we can liaise with Interpol and law enforcement in the relevant countries to recover their funds and put these criminals behind bars.”

HAECHI-I is the first in a three-year project to disrupt online financial crime, backed by the Korean government and featuring the participation of Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Korea, Laos, The Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

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