ALMOST 200 individuals suspected of travelling with airline tickets bought using stolen, compromised or fake credit card details have been detained in a major international law enforcement operation targeting fraudsters.
UK and Spanish authorities, airline representatives, payment card companies, online travel agencies and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) worked together with experts from Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre to identify suspicious transactions and provide confirmation to law enforcement officers deployed in the airports.
IATA estimates that the airline industry loses over €850million per year as a result of the fraudulent online purchases of flight tickets.
Between 16 and 20 October 2017, 61 countries, 63 airlines and six online travel agencies were involved in the tenth Global Airport Action Days (GAAD) which took place at over 226 airports across the world.
During the action week, 298 suspicious transactions were reported.
As a result, 195 people were detained, denied boarding, questioned by police and charged.
Several people were caught trying to traffic drugs from Latin America to Europe, frequently flying back and forth using fraudulently purchased tickets.
The European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) also deployed officers to 20 airports, assisting in the detection of identity fraud, fake documents and irregular migration.
Europol’s Executive Director, Rob Wainwright said, “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.”
INTERPOL’s Paul Stanfield, said, “Fraudulent online transactions are highly profitable for organised 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 organised criminal networks behind fraudulent airline ticket purchases and other criminal activities.”
How to prevent online air ticket fraud
Passengers should be cautious when purchasing airline tickets online:
- Where possible pay for travel using your own credit card.Make sure the company you are buying your tickets from is legitimate. The IATA logo is one indicator of this.
- Avoid buying tickets from classified websites which sell other things, such as cars and holiday homes.
- When buying an airline journey from a travel company, you can check if the flight exists by checking the airline’s own website.
- Remember that if the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
If you become a victim of online ticket fraud keep all the evidence and report it to the police.