Interpol operation “First Light 2022” leads to thousands of arrests of social engineering scammers worldwide

Interpol has arrested thousands and seized millions of US dollars from social engineering scammers worldwide involved in telecommunication fraud, business mail compromise (BEC) and associated money laundering.

The two month operation dubbed “First Light 2022,” started on March 8, 2022 and completed May 8, 2022. The joint operation included cooperation between international police in 76 countries that took part in the crackdown against the fraudsters.

“Police in participating countries raided national call centres suspected of telecommunications or scamming fraud, particularly telephone deception, romance scams, e-mail deception, and connected financial crime,” Interpol wrote in a press release on June 15, 2022.

Interpol published these preliminary numbers from the operation so far:

  • 1,770 locations raided worldwide
  • 3,000 suspects identified
  • 2,000 operators, fraudsters and money launderers arrested
  • 4,000 bank accounts frozen
  • USD 50 million worth of illicit funds intercepted.

Moreover, Interpol provided a few examples from the successful operation. In one case, the Singapore Police Force rescued a teenage scam victim who was tricked by criminals into participating in a EUR 1.5 million ransom scam.

In another example, a Chinese national was involved in a EUR 34 million Ponzi scheme that defrauded 24,000 victims. As a result of the operation, the scammer was arrested in Papua New Guinea and sent back to China by way of Singapore.

Interpol also provided warnings about get rich quick schemes, romance scams, and business email compromise (BEC) scams.

Regarding romance scams, scammers typically use social media or online dating applications to connect to their victims. They will often upload fake photos of good looking people and even steal other user’s identities.

Cybercriminals also use BEC scams to target companies and high level employees (such as those in finance) who conduct wire transfers and may have suppliers overseas.

“Telecom and BEC fraud are sources of serious concern for many countries and have a hugely damaging effect on economies, businesses and communities,” Rory Corcoran, Director of Interpol’s Financial Crime and Anti-Corruption Centre (IFCACC) stated.

The annual operation First Light 2022 was first launched in 2014 and was carried out with the financial support of China’s Ministry of Public Security.

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