While many of us Americans were preparing for a day of gluttonous eating to give thanks, a world-wide operation was in play to target criminals suspected of fraudulently purchasing airline flight tickets online using stolen or fake credit card data.

This international operation, run by Interpol and joined by representatives from the airlines and major credit card companies American Express, MasterCard, Visa Inc and Visa Europe, sought targets globally via three satellite Interpol offices in The Hague (Netherlands), Singapore, and Bogota (Colombia).

– Over 60 airlines and 45 countries (including the U.S.) were involved in the activity, which took place at over 80 airports across the world.
– This international operation was the result of months of detailed planning between law enforcement, prosecuting and border control agencies, airlines and credit card companies, coordinated by Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3).
– Notifications were sent to transport hubs across the world as waiting enforcement officers intercepted and detained suspects attempting to travel using fraudulently-obtained flight tickets.
– More than 281 suspicious transactions were reported and 118 individuals were arrested for criminal online services offering credit card credentials and fake plane tickets, some repeat offenders.
– According to Interpol, credit card fraud is linked to other forms of serious crime such as drug trafficking and human trafficking.
– According to International Air Transport Association (IATA), the banking, airline and travel sectors have suffered huge financial losses as a direct result of such Internet-facilitated crime, with the airline industry alone facing losses of $1,000,000,000 USD caused by fraudulent online ticket booking.

Europol Director Rob Wainwright says:

This operation is another example of law enforcement and the private sector working seamlessly together, to prevent and fight cybercrime – this time identity theft and credit card fraud. We are reaching new levels with our cooperation and aim to become an ‘unbeatable alliance’ with aspirations to make cyberspace as crime free as possible for global citizens. Europol’s EC3 will continue to invest heavily in conducting similar operations and other activities that will make life harder for cybercriminals.

Global Airport Action
The European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, announced the launch of Global Airport Action this week to further target international security of airports all over the world and serious forms of cybercrime. Commissioner Avramopoulos stated:

This major step, taken on a European and global scale, links all key stakeholders to solve problems within one of the most affected areas of cybercrime. Our aim is to act in concert to protect our societies and citizens. Cybercrime is becoming a ‘service’ that organized crime groups buy and use, so we have to be ready and boost the capacity of our law enforcement agencies to act effectively.

While the details of “Global Airport Action” are still vague, we can certainly expect to see more international law enforcement and private sector cooperation, joint-task forces and the like, to target such organized cyber crime. This global bust, the third of its kind, while seemingly small in the quantity of arrests made, is an important major step in combatting a sector of online fraud and other crime that likely has trickle-down support for far more serious threats to society than identity theft or airline ticket fraud.


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