European day of action targets airline fraudsters

28 June 2013
Press Release
Press Release/News

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The Hague, the Netherlands

European law enforcement agencies, supported by the European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) at Europol, have held a day of action to clamp down on criminals using fraudulent credit cards to purchase airline tickets.

The international operation took place at 38 airports* in 16 European countries where law enforcement officers were deployed to stop and question individuals attempting to depart on flights leaving on 27 June 2013. Those that were found in possession of airline tickets purchased using stolen credit card details were denied boarding the flights and questioned by waiting police.

During the operation more than 200 suspicious transactions were reported by the industry and 43 individuals were detained in Austria (3), Germany (4), Greece (7), Finland (2), Ireland (4), Lithuania (3), Netherlands (5), Poland (3), Romania (1), Spain (4) and the United Kingdom (7). The individuals detained are linked to other criminal activities and will be investigated further in connection with the distribution of credit card data via the internet, intrusions into financial institutions’ databases, other suspicious transactions, drug trafficking, illegal immigration, counterfeit documents including IDs, and scams. Some of them were already wanted by judicial authorities under European Arrest Warrants.

The operation, which was coordinated on an international level by EC3, is the culmination of several months of planning with Visa Europe and a number of European and international airlines.

During yesterday’s action day, the European Cybercrime Centre in The Hague coordinated the international activities and facilitated communication between all parties involved. In addition, Europol deployed four mobile offices at airports in Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London (Heathrow) and Madrid, which allowed live access to Europol’s centralised intelligence databases. Visa Europe collected and transferred financial data from banks back to the investigators stationed at the airports.

The operation remains ongoing and intelligence on those involved continues to be shared with international law enforcement partners. The operation has had multiple benefits: crime prevention, disruption of organised criminal activities and further intelligence gained on the activities of organised crime groups operating within the EU.

Visa Europe’s Head of Fraud, Peter Bayley said: “Visa Europe is proud to have worked with all the international partners on this day of action. It is because of great work like this across the law enforcement industry, and Visa’s €100 million annual investment in new technology, that fraudsters face increasingly sophisticated methods of fraud detection and control. These factors also ensure Visa remains the safest and most convenient way for our customers to make payments.”

Troels Oerting, the Head of ECstated: “This is another great example of the increased cooperation between industry, Member States’ cybercrime units and the European Cybercrime Centre. This close way of working together is key if we want to keep pace with the development amongst organised criminal networks taking advantage of the new criminal opportunities in cyberspace. We are determined to continue developing new tools, new cooperation and new methods for fighting online crime. We are grateful for the support from our colleagues in the EU airports who are carrying out the frontline work, our partners in the credit card industry, and the airlines that are the victims of this fraud.”

For information on how to minimise your chances of becoming a victim of payment card fraud, please visit Europol's website.


* Airports taking part in the action day were:

Austria - Vienna
Croatia - Zagreb
Finland - Helsinki 
Germany – Frankfurt, Munich and Nuremberg 
Hungary - Budapest 
Ireland - Dublin 
Latvia - Riga 
Lithuania - Vilnius 
The Netherlands – Eindhoven, Amsterdam and The Hague/Rotterdam
Poland - Warsaw 
Romania - Bucharest 
Slovakia – Bratislava and Košice
Spain – Barcelona, Madrid, Málaga and Mallorca
Switzerland – Basel, Geneva, Lugano and Zurich 
United Kingdom – Belfast, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Gatwick, Glasgow, Liverpool, London City, London Heathrow, London Luton, London Stansted, Manchester, Southampton.