Interpol crackdown as 118 people arrested at airports for plane ticket fraud

Operation 'Global Airport Action'

A global police crackdown co-ordinated by Interpol has seen the arrest of 118 people accused of using stolen or fake debit and credit cards to buy airplane tickets.

The arrests were made at 80 airports across 45 countries on 26 and 27 November in countries including the UK, US, Ireland, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden plus a long list of Asian and East European states.

Working in conjunction with American Express, MasterCard, and Visa, the arrests were carried out in real time as suspicious transactions were flagged, 281 in all. It's not clear how big a dent this will have made in a form of crime the International Air Transport Association (IATA) now estimates has cost airlines $1 billion to date, but the operation was probably designed as much to act as a deterrent.

Interpol said the co-operation that made the bust possible will now be an ongoing feature of their attempts to deter criminals from using cards in this way. This is probably optimistic - criminals could adjust by buying tickets online rather than in person.

"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," said Europol Director Rob Wainwright.

"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)."

The gangs behind this type of crime were also connected to drug and human trafficking, he said.

In a separate announcement, Europol, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) announced the seizing of 292 Internet domains allegedly used to sell counterfeit goods, mainly luxury goods, music, movies and pharmaceuticals.

Since its inception in late 2012, the 'In Our Sites' (IOS) V operation has resulted in the downing of 1,829 domains being used in this way.