Worldwide crackdown on airline ticket fraud reveals the extent of abuse

A joint crackdown on airline ticket fraud by law enforcement authorities in 60 countries in coordination with 6 airlines and 12 online travel agencies revealed the extent to which fraudsters and migrant smuggling networks use stolen, compromised or fake credit card details to buy airline tickets.

Spearheaded by Europol and carried out at more than 200 airports across the world, the joint law enforcement action against airline ticket fraud resulted in the arrest of 79 criminals and the detection of 165 suspicious transactions.

Europol stated that the joint action was carried out between 18th and 22nd November and most of the incidents of fraud detected during the operation were either related to illegal immigration or to people travelling with counterfeited IDs or valid documents from other persons from different nationalities.

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The 79 people who were arrested or detained across 60 countries were found traveling with airline tickets bought using stolen, compromised or fake credit card details. Law enforcement agencies were assisted by airlines, online travel agencies, payment card companies, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), European Airline Fraud Prevention Group and Perseuss during the operation.

Airline ticket fraud costs the airline industry close to 1 billion USD per year

"Airline ticket fraud is borderless by nature. This operation was the culmination of many months of meticulous planning between Europol, law enforcement, judiciary, and border agencies, airlines and credit card companies, and is a perfect example of how our combined forces can make distinctive contribution in the fight against these criminal syndicates operating across borders," said Wil van Gemert, Europol’s Deputy Executive Director Operations.

Considering that migrant smuggling networks use fraud tickets and fake identification documents to facilitate illegal immigration on a large scale, Europol's Migrant Smuggling Centre (EMSC) joined the operation and was assisted by the Taskforce Travel Intelligence (TFTI) this year.

According to Europol, airline ticket fraud costs the airline industry close to 1 billion USD per year as a result of the fraudulent online purchases of flight tickets. This type of fraud is committed extensively by criminal gangs and networks for carrying out activities such as illegal immigration, trafficking in human beings, drug smuggling and terrorism.

"The card-not-present (CNP) fraud, the purchases of physical goods with compromised cards, has seen a significant increase throughout the EU and across many sectors such as airline tickets, car rentals, and accommodation. Tens of thousands of crimes are reported in many EU countries and volume is increasing every year. Airline companies are among the most affected by CNP fraud," it added.

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