• Murhaf Radi, Europe Editor

Over 20,000 arrests in global crackdown on phone, Internet scams: INTERPOL


LYON, France -- A year-long investigative clampdown on criminal networks coordinated by INTERPOL has demonstrated the scale of phone and online frauds worldwide.


Codenamed First Light, the operation officially concluded in November with the following results: 10,380 locations raided, 21,549 operators, fraudsters and money launderers arrested, 310 bank accounts frozen and USD 153. 9 million worth of illicit funds intercepted.


This latest edition of Operation First Light marked the first time law enforcement has coordinated with INTERPOL on a global scale to combat telecoms fraud, with operations taking place on every continent.


A three-month enforcement phase (1 September – 30 November 2019) saw 35 countries participate in a coordinated crackdown on organised crime groups engaged in various types of telecommunications and social engineering scams.


Based on the criminal techniques uncovered, INTERPOL also issued three Purple Notices on telephone scams, investment fraud and fraud schemes taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Other types of fraud exposed in the operation include business e-mail compromise, romance scams and ‘smishing’, where standard messaging service, SMS, messages are sent to coerce a victim to divulge personal information that can subsequently be fraudulently used.


"It is important for member countries to remember that they are not alone in combatting these frauds," said INTERPOL Secretary General Jurgen Stock.


"INTERPOL’s global network exists to support one another in precisely this situation, with the timely sharing of police information and intelligence, particularly when it crosses one or more jurisdictions," added Stock.

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