An international law enforcement operation targeting the purchase of airline tickets using stolen or fake payment card details has resulted in the detention of 140 people globally.
The two-day (15 and 16 June) Airport Action Days operation was jointly coordinated by INTERPOL, Europol and Ameripol, with support from law enforcement authorities in Canada and the US.
INTERPOL coordinated the operational activities across the Asia-Pacific and Middle East regions from its command post located at the INTERPOL Global Complex for Innovation (IGCI) in Singapore, staffed by officers from the Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes and Global Outreach and Regional Support units, as well as the Command and Coordination Centre.
Other command posts were set up by Europol in the Netherlands, Ameripol in Colombia and by Canadian and American law enforcement authorities, and support was also offered by Frontex and Eurojust.
During the operation, 252 suspicious transactions were reported worldwide, which led to 140 individuals being detained, denied boarding and questioned by police.
Individuals detained during the operation were also found to be involved in other forms of crimes, including human trafficking, drug trafficking, cybercrime and terrorism.
“This type of fraud not only targets innocent consumers by stealing their payment card details, but also poses significant risks to global security by allowing criminals and terrorists to travel under the radar.
“Only through coordinated interventions such as the Airport Action Days can we track down the organized criminal networks behind this large-scale fraud and detain the criminals involved before they have the chance to commit other crimes,” said INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock.
Representatives from airlines, online travel agencies and payment card companies worked together with law enforcement to identify suspicious airline ticket purchases and send the information to law enforcement officers deployed at the participating airports.
Payment card issuers, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Perseus, the global travel industry’s fraud review structure, supported the operation by providing additional information to confirm suspicious transactions.
Rob Wainwright, Director of Europol, said: “With hundreds of thousands of airline bookings made online every day, it is only by such coordinated, targeted and intensive checks being carried out simultaneously that the potential fraudulent use of credit cards can be detected and the fraudsters arrested.”
In addition to coordinating the information exchange and investigations across Asia and the Middle East, INTERPOL conducted checks against its criminal databases, including its nominal and Stolen and Lost Travel Documents (SLTD) databases.
James Anderson, Head of INTERPOL’s Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes unit, highlighted the importance of collaboration between law enforcement and private industry partners in detecting fraudulent airline ticket purchases.
Some 74 airlines and 43 countries were involved in this year’s action, which took place at more than 130 airports across the world. INTERPOL coordinated the operational activity of 16 airlines and police in nine countries located at 12 airports in the Asia-Pacific and Middle East regions.
The operation was timed to coincide with the Euro 2016 football tournament, so particular attention was paid to passengers traveling to the host country, France, with checks conducted at local airports and in departure countries.