Interpol Seizes $50M in Social Engineering Scam Crackdown

Interpol arrested over 2,000 cyber crime operatives and seized $50 million worth of illegal funds in a social engineering scam crackdown.

In a two-month global cyber fraud operation coordinated by Interpol, dubbed ‘Operation First Light’, 2,000 cyber crime operatives, scammers, and money launderers were detained. It also involved 4,000 bank accounts that were frozen, which brought $50 million total in illegal funds.

“A worldwide crackdown on social engineering fraud has seen scammers identified globally, substantial criminal assets seized and new investigative leads triggered in every continent,” said Interpol in a statement.

From March to May this year, 76 countries participated in Operation First Light, which targeted email and phone-based fraud.

According to Interpol, “National call centers suspected of telecommunications or scamming fraud, particularly telephone deception, romance scams, e-mail deception, and connected financial crime,” were raided by police in the participating countries, which include Singapore, China, and Papua New Guinea.

In Papua New Guinea, a Chinese national wanted in connection with a Ponzi scheme that duped 24,000 people out of $35 million was arrested and later extradited to China.

Meanwhile, authorities in Singapore rescued a teenage victim who had been scammed into a fake kidnapping. He is believed to have emailed his parents recordings of himself with fake wounds in an attempt to extort a $1.6 million ransom.

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

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the forms of cybercrime that police primarily focus on include romance scams, which cost $956 million in losses globally in 2021.

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