International operation against online fraud leads to 3,500 suspects arrested

An international law enforcement effort targeting online financial crime has resulted in nearly 3,500 arrests and the confiscation of assets totaling $300 million across 34 countries.

The six-month-long Operation HAECHI IV involved the participation of countries across Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, and Oceania.

The operation targeted seven types of cyber scams, such as voice phishing, romance scams, online sextortion, investment fraud, money laundering associated with illegal online gambling, business email compromise fraud, and e-commerce fraud.

Authorities blocked 82,112 suspicious bank accounts, seizing a combined $199 million in hard currency and $101 million in virtual assets. Investment fraud, business email compromise, and e-commerce fraud accounted for 75% of cases investigated in HAECHI IV.

“The seizure of $300 million represents a staggering sum and clearly illustrates the incentive behind today’s explosive growth of transnational organized crime. This represents the savings and hard-earned cash of victims. This vast accumulation of unlawful wealth is a serious threat to global security and weakens the economic stability of nations worldwide,” INTERPOL’s Executive Director of Police Services Stephen Kavanagh said.

In partnership with various virtual asset service providers (VASP), INTERPOL aided frontline officers in identifying 367 virtual asset accounts associated with transnational organized crime. Law enforcement in member countries successfully froze the assets, and investigations are ongoing.

"It is remarkable that global efforts to stay ahead of the latest criminal trends have resulted in a substantial growth in operational outcomes,” INTERPOL’s Head of the National Central Bureau in Korea, Kim Dong Kwon, said about the operation.

Cooperation between Filipino and Korean authorities led to the arrest in Manila of a high-profile online gambling criminal after a two-year manhunt by Korea's National Police Agency.

Officers warned countries about new emerging digital investment fraud practices. They talked about a new scam detected in Korea involving the sale of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) with promises of huge returns. However, the investments turn out to be a “rug pull,” a growing scam in the crypto industry where developers abruptly abandon a project, and investors lose their money.

The second notice warned about the use of AI and deep fake technology to lend credibility to scams by enabling criminals to hide their identities and pretend to be family members, friends, or love interests.

In the UK, the operation uncovered instances of AI-generated synthetic content being used for deception, fraud, harassment, and extortion. This included impersonation scams, online sexual blackmail, investment fraud, and cases where voice cloning technology was used to impersonate individuals known to the victims.

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