Interpol arrests hundreds of cyber-fraud suspects

A worldwide police bust has resulted in the arrest of more than 2,000 people suspected of social engineering scams and money laundering, according to Interpol.

Thanks to Operation First Light 2022, more than $50 million in assets were also seized after raids on call centers thought to be the base of operations for telephone and email social engineering attacks including romance scams.

Other suspects arrested included alleged money launderers and virtual kidnappers. In one poignant case of the latter, police in Singapore rescued a teenage victim who had been tricked into faking his own abduction and injuries to extort a 1.5 million euro ransom from his parents.

Fortunately, Operation First Light swooped before the payment could be made, as well as shutting down some 4,000 bank accounts belonging to the alleged crooks.

Another high-profile scalp came in the form of a Chinese national believed to be behind a Ponzi scheme that netted gang members another 34 million euros, which they defrauded out of 24,000 victims. The suspect in this case was arrested in Papua New Guinea before being repatriated to face trial.

“The transnational and digital nature of different types of telecom and social engineering fraud continues to present grave challenges for local police authorities, because perpetrators operate from a different country or even continent than their victims and keep updating their fraud schemes,” said Duan Daqi, a spokesman for Interpol’s Beijing bureau.

During the two-month operation, First Light operatives working across 76 countries shared information including IP addresses, telephone numbers, fraudulent website details, and data on suspicious financial transactions.

“The international nature of these crimes can only be addressed successfully by law enforcement working together beyond borders,” said Rory Corcoran, head of Interpol’s financial crime division.

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