153 detained for ticket fraud following worldwide law enforcement operation

law enforcement agents check passengers at the airport
Photo: Europol

153 individuals have been detained following the sixth Global Airport Action Days (GAAD) major international law enforcement operation targeting airline fraudsters. The individuals are suspected of flying using airline tickets purchased with stolen, compromised or fake credit card details.

Between 6 and 8 June 2017, 64 countries, 84 airlines and eight online travel agencies worked jointly with law enforcement officers to carry out actions in 230 airports across the world, an operation that, for the first time, included 13 African airports, supported by AIRCOP.

During the operation, 312 suspicious transactions were reported. As a result, 153 people were detained, denied boarding, questioned by police and criminally charged; several investigations are ongoing. Some individuals were caught trying to traffic heroin from Latin America to Africa and Europe, frequently flying back and forth using fraudulently purchased tickets.

During the actions, new modi operandi were identified as being used by organised crime networks to gain access to transit areas in airports in order to facilitate illegal immigration and drug trafficking.

Representatives from airlines, online travel agencies, payment card companies, Perseuss, and the International Air Transport Association (IATA), worked together with experts from Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) to identify suspicious transactions and provide confirmation to law enforcement officers deployed in the airports. The European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex, deployed 27 officers to 18 airports to support this operation, assisting with detecting identity fraud, fake documents and illegal immigration. Eurojust also assisted throughout the action days.

Since many individuals use credit cards and fake identification documents to facilitate illegal immigration, Europol’s European Migrant Smuggling Centre joined this year’s GAAD to provide better support to EU Member States and partners for fighting human smuggling networks.

GAAD was coordinated from operational centres at Europol in the Netherlands, INTERPOL Global Complex for Innovation in Singapore, National Cyber Forensics & Training Alliance in the U.S., and Ameripol in Bogota. GAAD was also supported by AIRCOP for Africa, the Latin American and Caribbean Intelligence Police Community and Canadian and US law enforcement agencies.

GAAD is a horizontal and multidisciplinary operation to fight fraudulent online purchases of flight tickets with compromised credit card data. The public-private partnership concept agreed for this action is the most efficient way of combating online fraud and other serious forms of organised crime, facilitated by ticket fraud, such as illegal immigration, trafficking in human beings, drug trafficking, and others.

Law enforcement is now tackling this international phenomenon on a daily basis in close cooperation with the private sector. This has enhanced trust between all involved parties and will continue to inflict damage to the criminals involved in airline ticket fraud.

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.