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Major Interpol operation nabs alleged scammers and cash

Interpol has revealed the results of a massive crackdown on social engineering scams that led to the interception of around $50 million worth of illicit funds, the arrest of 2,000 suspects, and the freezing of some 4,000 bank accounts.

The probe, codenamed First Light 2022, spanned 1,770 locations in 76 countries and took place across two months from March 8 to May 8, Interpol revealed this week.

Phones and other digital devices seized during Interpol's investigation into social engineering scams.
Some of the phones and other digital devices seized during Interpol’s investigation into social engineering scams. Interpol

Social engineering scams involve the perpetrators tricking victims into giving up sensitive information, often with the aim of committing financial fraud. Criminals can approach victims in various ways, though emails, messaging, and phone calls are the most common methods. Both companies and individuals can be targeted in social engineering scams, and in some cases victims end up unwittingly transferring huge amounts of cash to the criminals’ accounts.

Interpol said it raided a number of call centers suspected of telecommunications or scamming fraud, with many of the facilities allegedly engaged in telephone deception, romance scams, e-mail deception, and related financial crimes.

Citing some of its successful stings, Interpol said that Singapore police used gathered intelligence to rescue a teenage scam victim who had been tricked into pretending to be kidnapped, “sending videos of himself with fake wounds to his parents and seeking a 1.5 million euros (about $1.6 million) ransom.”

In another case, cops arrested a Chinese national suspected of involvement in a Ponzi scheme estimated to have defrauded around 24,000 victims out of 34 million euros (about $35.6 million).

Rory Corcoran, director of Interpol’s Financial Crime and Anti-Corruption Centre, said crimes of this nature are a “serious concern for many countries and have a hugely damaging effect on economies, businesses and communities.”

Corcoran added: “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.”

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