50 members of an organised crime group suspected of payment card fraud were arrested earlier this week in a joint operation led by the Romanian Police (Brigada de Combatere a Criminalitatii Organizate Craiova) and supported by Europol's European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) and the Italian State Police (Servizio di Polizia Postale e delle Comunicazioni.) This coordinated action targeted criminal services misusing illegally obtained credit card credentials and advertising on the Internet the sale of fake plane tickets
As a result of Operation Travel, 50 individuals, including 4 leaders of the organised crime group, were detained in the southern part of Romania. 16 house searches were executed, and a significant amount of digital evidence, computers, mobile phones, SIM cards, memory cards and documents were seized for further analysis.
Active since 2013, the apprehended criminal organisation illegally obtained payment card information and other personal data from victims worldwide, and subsequently used this data to acquire high-value goods and services, including most frequently plane tickets, but also sports bets, electronic devices, jewellery, agricultural machinery and real estate. The proceeds from the online fraud were also used to facilitate other crimes on the national and international level.
Internet-facilitated credit card fraud has resulted in substantial financial losses for the airline and payment sector, and has been proved to facilitate other forms of serious crime by providing means of transport and funds for organised crime groups.
Europol's Deputy Director Operations Wil van Gemert said: "This coordinated action is yet another excellent example of how the combined forces of European law enforcement agencies, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the private sector are capable of severely disrupting criminal syndicates who rely on the outdated assumption that they are beyond the reach of law in cyberspace. Multi-stakeholder cooperation is essential to prove these cybercriminals wrong, and support the airline industry in combating online fraudulent schemes."
Europol's European Cyber Crime Centre (EC3) assisted this operation by providing analytical support, facilitating exchange of information and evidence between the involved countries as well as assisting the final on-the-spot operation in Romania.