The fight against plane ticket fraud intensifies

interior avióAt the end of 2017, a total of 61 countries, 63 airlines and 6 online travel agencies participated in the 10th edition of the Global Airport Action Days (GAAD), which took place in 226 airports around the world.

The GAAD are a horizontal and multi-disciplinary operation which fights against fraudulent online purchases of flight tickets with fake credit details. Representatives of airlines, online travel agencies, credit card companies, Perseuss and  International Air Transport Association (IATA) participate, working together with experts from the European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) of Europol to identify suspicious transactions and provide information to police officers on duty in airports.

The concept of public / private association agreed for this action is the most efficient way of combating online fraud and other serious forms of organised crime, involving ticket fraud, illegal immigration, human trafficking, drug trafficking and others.

During the action week of 2017, information about 298 suspicious transactions was reported. As a consequence, 195 people were arrested. Some of these, with flights they had purchased fraudulently, were trying to transport drugs from Latin America to Europe.

The GAAD were organised via coordination centres of Europol, in The Hague; the Global Complex for Innovation, in Singapore and Ameripol, in Bogota, and had the support of Canadian and US police authorities via the NCFTA in Pittsburgh.

Eurojust attended the GAAD, along with the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), which deployed officers in 20 airports, helping to detect identity fraud, fake documents and irregular migration. The airport communication project (AIRCOP), implemented by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in collaboration with Interpol and the World Customs Organisation (OMA), also participated in activities to apply the law in airports in Africa and the Middle East.

Crime as a service, the recent trend in all forms of serious organised crime of which we spoke in the blog concerning computer crime, has also appeared in the travel sector. A number of police forces have dismantled fake online travel agencies specialising in the purchase of plane tickets with stolen or false credit card information for other criminals, offering them a service.

The IATA estimates that the air travel industry loses over a million dollars annually as a consequence of fake purchases of online flight tickets.

In order to prevent the fraudulent purchase of online air tickets the IATA recommends that passengers be careful when buying online air tickets and offers the following advice:

  • Whenever possible, pay for the trip with your credit card.
  • Make sure that the company you buy the tickets from is legal. The logo of the IATA indicates this.
  • Avoid buying tickets on classified websites which sell other things, such as cars and holiday homes.
  • When you buy a flight ticket from a travel company, you can check that the flight exists by confirming it on the airline’s website.
  • Remember that if the price looks too good to be true, it probably is.
  • If you become the victim of on an online air ticket fraud, keep all the proof and report it to the police.

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