Suspects in the Philippines arrested as part of an international crackdown.
Suspects in the Philippines arrested as part of an international crackdown. Image: Interpol

Nearly 4,000 arrested in global police crackdown on online scam networks

International law enforcement said on Thursday that it dismantled online scam networks in several countries, arresting over 3,900 suspects and seizing $257 million in illegally obtained assets.

The operation, dubbed First Light, was conducted by police officers from 61 countries and targeted phishing, investment fraud, fake online shopping sites, romance scams, and impersonation scams, according to a statement by Interpol.

In addition to arresting thousands of potential cybercriminals, the police also identified over 14,600 other possible suspects across all continents.

During the searches, law enforcement seized suspects’ real estate, high-end vehicles, expensive jewelry, and many other high-value items and collections. They also froze 6,745 bank accounts used for transferring money obtained through illegal operations.

In one case, the police intercepted $331,000 gleaned from a business email compromise fraud involving a Spanish victim who unknowingly transferred money to someone in Hong Kong.

In another case, authorities in Australia successfully recovered $3.7 million on behalf of an impersonation scam victim after the funds were fraudulently transferred to bank accounts in Malaysia and Hong Kong.

“By confiscating such large amounts of money, and disrupting the networks behind them, we not only safeguard our communities but also deal a significant blow to the transnational organized crime groups that pose such a serious threat to global security,” said Isaac Kehinde Oginni, the director of Interpol’s financial crime and anti-corruption center.

The criminal networks identified during the operation were spread around the globe. In Namibia, for example, the police rescued 88 local youths who were forced into conducting scams as part of a sophisticated international crime network, according to Interpol.

Law enforcement from Singapore, Hong Kong, and China prevented an attempted tech support scam, saving a 70-year-old victim from losing $281,200 worth of savings.

“No country is immune to this type of crime, and combating it requires very strong international cooperation,” said Yong Wang from China’s Ministry of Public Security.

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Daryna Antoniuk

Daryna Antoniuk

is a reporter for Recorded Future News based in Ukraine. She writes about cybersecurity startups, cyberattacks in Eastern Europe and the state of the cyberwar between Ukraine and Russia. She previously was a tech reporter for Forbes Ukraine. Her work has also been published at Sifted, The Kyiv Independent and The Kyiv Post.