A sweeping Interpol operation led to the seizure of $50 million in illicit funds and the arrests of 2,000 alleged scammers from a number of different countries earlier this week.
Interpol, or the International Criminal Police Organization, carried out a large-scale investigation into “social engineering” scams—the ubiquitous online schemes wherein cybercriminals trick web users into divulging confidential information and then defraud them.
The two-month operation, codenamed “First Light 2022,” was coordinated between Interpol and local police agencies in countries all around the world, according to a press release distributed Wednesday. In the course of the investigation, police say they identified 3,000 different suspects, froze 4,000 bank accounts, arrested “some 2,000 operators, fraudsters and money launderers,” while conducting raids at 1,770 locations worldwide. Among the captured was a Chinese national who was wanted in connection to an enormous Ponzi scheme that police say involved some 24,000 victims and the theft of 34 million euros.
“The international nature of these crimes can only be addressed successfully by law enforcement working together beyond borders, which is why Interpol is critical to providing police the world over with a coordinated tactical response,” said Rory Corcoran, Director of Interpol’s Financial Crime and Anti-Corruption Centre.
“The transnational and digital nature of different types of telecom and social engineering fraud continues to present grave challenges for local police authorities, because perpetrators operate from a different country or even continent than their victims and keep updating their fraud schemes,” said Duan Daqi, Head of the Interpol National Central Bureau in Beijing. “Interpol provides a unique platform for police cooperation to address this challenge. Though Operation Firstlight 2022 is concluded, our collective law enforcement efforts will continue as the crimes persist.”
The majority of suspects have not been publicly identified at this time. Authorities said that 76 different countries participated in the “clampdown” but didn’t provide further details.