Aviation

Authorities catch 200 plane ticket fraudsters

Lauren Croft

Let this be a lesson to all airline fraudsters: Don’t.

Because just last week, almost 200 said fraudsters were arrested – for using stolen, compromised or fake credit card details to buy airline tickets.

Global Airport Action Days (GAAD) was held between the 16 and 20 October, with 61 countries and 226 airports participating in total.

During the action week, almost 300 suspicious transactions were reported – with 195 people detained, denied boarding, questioned by police and charged criminally as a result.

Investigations are currently ongoing – but several travellers were caught attempting to traffic drugs from Latin America from Europe, flying to and from using fake tickets.

The detainments were a result of the 10th GAAD, bringing countries, airlines and travel agencies – coordinated by the likes of Europol in The Hague, INTERPOL Global Complex for Innovation in Singapore and Ameripol in Bogota. No wonder there were so many arrests.

The action week was also supported by Canadian and US law enforcement authorities through the NCFTA in Pittsburgh.

Europol’s Executive Director, Rob Wainwright, said continuous measures need to be taken to abolish airline criminals completely.

“Airline ticket fraud poses a range of security issues, and we cannot allow anyone, in particular serious criminals and terrorists, to travel around the world anonymously and to endanger others.

“This is why Europol, together with its private partners, needs to further extend these global initiatives, allowing for police and the private sector to share information about suspicious online activities to make life as hard as possible for criminals,” he said.

And the GAAD action is only growing; this year included a number of new major airline partners – four from Asia Pacific, three from Africa and two from the Middle East.

The Director for Organized and Emerging Crime at INTERPOL’s General Secretariat headquarters, Paul Stanfield, said that GAAD was particularly important to catch online fraudulent activity.

“Fraudulent online transactions are highly profitable for organized crime, and are often tied to other activities which include cybercrime, illegal immigration, human trafficking and terrorism.

“Global Airport Action Days is therefore an important cross-sector collaborative operation against the transnational organized criminal networks behind fraudulent airline ticket purchases and other criminal activities,” he said.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates that, in the airline industry, over $1 billion is lost per year because of fraudulent online purchases of flight tickets.

During the GAAD, Airlines, online travel agencies, payment card companies and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) partnered up with experts from Europol’s European Cybercrime Center to catch suspicious transactions and communicate them to police throughout the airports.

The Senior Vice President of Financial and Distribution Services at IATA, Aleksander Popovic said that IATA “will continue to strongly encourage global carriers to be actively involved in this industry-wide partnership with Europol against fraud and criminal activities in general”

“We are very proud to see that our efforts are delivering results and that our members are paying increasing attention to the policy of zero tolerance as far as fraudsters and criminal activities are concerned,” he said.

According to Europol, the GAAD is part of Operation Dragon, the fourth EU-wide set of Joint Action Days taking place within the EU Policy Cycle for organised and serious international crime. The intelligence-led operational actions taking place in the framework of this operation cover several crime areas whilst focusing on key criminal hotspots and key criminal infrastructure in the EU and beyond.

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