The 12th Global Airline Action Days (GAAD), which ran from 18 – 22 November 2019, resulted in the arrest or detention of 79 individuals suspected of travelling with airline tickets bought using stolen, compromised or fake credit card details. GAAD was coordinated from Command Posts at Europol in The Hague, INTERPOL Global Complex for Innovation in Singapore, Ameripol and Colombia in Bogota, Canada and NCFTA (with the US Secret Service) in the US.
Some of the reported cases were linked to illegal immigration, where the arrested passengers were in possession of counterfeited IDs or valid documents from other persons from different nationalities. Card-not-present (CNP) fraud, the purchase of physical goods with compromised cards, has significantly increased 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 is estimated that losses for the airline industry globally have reached close to 1 billion USD per year, as a result of the fraudulent online purchases of flight tickets. These online transactions are highly lucrative for organised crime and are often linked to more serious criminal activities including irregular immigration, trafficking in human beings, drug smuggling and terrorism.
Eurojust assisted during the action days, together with the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), which deployed officers to 28 airports. The Airport Communication Project (AIRCOP), implemented by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in partnership with INTERPOL and the World Customs Organization (WCO) and counting the European Union as its main donor, also took part in law enforcement activities at airports in Africa, by deploying one officer at the main Command Post in Europol HQ.
Representatives from airlines, online travel agencies, payment card companies, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), European Airline Fraud Prevention Group and Perseuss, collaborated with Europol’s experts to identify suspicious transactions and provide confirmation to law enforcement officers deployed in the airports. Europol’s European Migrant Smuggling Centre (EMSC) joined this year’s operation to provide better support to EU Member States and partners for fighting migrant smuggling networks. The GAAD operation was further supported by the Taskforce Travel Intelligence (TFTI).
Wil van Gemert, Europol’s Deputy Executive Director Operations, said “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”.
Paul Stanfield, INTERPOL’s Director, Organized & Emerging Crime, commented “The Global Airline Action Day operation is an excellent example of how collaboration between the agencies as well as the public and private sectors serves to tackle and prevent crime such as credit card fraud. The operation was underpinned by professional commitment and mutual support across borders between national, regional and international police organizations”.
Cooperation and information exchange between the public and the private sector is the most efficient way of fighting tickets fraud and all other forms of organised crime, such as irregular immigration, trafficking in human beings, drug trafficking. The EAST Payments Task Force (EPTF) provides a public/private sector platform which focusses on driving down CNP fraud.