INTERPOL Seizes $130 Million And Arrests Scammers

After nearly six months of investigations, INTERPOL seized $130 million in cash and virtual assets from a large-scale cybercrime operation. It also arrested nearly 1000 suspects for involvement in fraudulent online schemes including romance scams, “sextortion,” voice phishing, investment fraud, and money laundering from illegal online gambling. 

The international investigation led to the exposure of a wide range of cyber-enabled crime schemes and recovery of funds for victims. It also highlighted common trends of cybercrime, informing relevant authorities and individuals about what to look out for. 

Operation HAECHI III

The Operation HAECHI III investigation lasted between June 28 and November 23, 2022. It led to the arrest of two Korean suspects in Greece and Italy who embezzled €28 million from Korean victims under a large-scale Ponzi scheme. Members of an India-based cybercrime group impersonating INTERPOL to trick victims into sending cryptocurrency were also arrested. 

Image of INTERPOL agents arresting scammers
A rare glimpse of justice being served (INTERPOL)

In addition to the series of arrests, the operation saw more than 2,800 banks and virtual financial assets blocked.

According to Hyung Se Lee, Head of Seoul’s Nation Central Bureau (NCB), they “recognize the importance for decisive and concerted law enforcement action across borders.” He also noted how Operation HAECHI III “speaks volumes” of the dedicated collaboration of participating countries and he expects “law enforcement victories ahead.”

Under INTERPOL’s new Anti-Money Laundering Rapid Response Protocol (ARRP) mechanism, countries are enabled to work together to submit and handle criminal proceedings across borders. Since January, 2022, ARRP helped member countries seize more than $120 million from cyber-fraud. 

In INTERPOL’s official statement, INTERPOL Secretary General, Jürgen Stock said that

“success of this operation is based on two key elements for law enforcement, follow the money and cooperation via INTERPOL.” He also highlighted the need for greater efforts for depriving cybercriminals of illegal gains and protecting netizens globally. 

The international cooperation during Operation HAECHI III unveiled emerging cyber scam trends particularly related to romance scams, sextortion, impersonation, and investment fraud. Overall, the operation has been a large-scale success, enhancing cross-border cooperation and informing law enforcement of common cybercrime tactics. 

INTERPOL also noticed a rise in encrypted messaging scams wherein perpetrators convince victims to divulge personal information or fall into Ponzi investment schemes. 

Countries participating in the global investigation include: 

          • Australia, Austria, Brunei, Cambodia, Cote d’Ivoire
          • France, Ghana, Hong Kong SAR China, India, Indonesia
          • Ireland, Japan, Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Laos
          • Malaysia, Maldives, Nigeria, Philippines, Poland
          • Romania, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain
          • Sweden, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States

Another ARRP case cracked down on business email phishing scams in Ireland. Illicitly collected funds of €1.2 million were returned to victims bank accounts in full. 

These wins signal new victories against global financial crime organizations operating online. While INTERPOL’s work offers promise toward a safer future for netizens, cybercrime is still widespread. 

Protect Yourself From Cybercrime

According to FBI reports, cybercrime has seen a 300% increase since the onset of the pandemic and some experts estimate it to cost a staggering $10.5 trillion per year by 2025. Operation HAECHI III is a prime example of how cybercriminals exploit vulnerabilities. 

To protect yourself from becoming a victim of malicious scams, Ponzi schemes, and investment fraud, it’s important to be aware of common cybercrime strategies. Phishing is the most common method for cybercriminals, and by understanding the tell-tale signs, you can protect yourself from being scammed. 

Furthermore, considering the growing prevalence of romance scams, it’s crucial to exercise extreme caution when using dating apps or platforms. Never give out personal information to anyone you don’t fully trust, and if a dating match asks you to invest in cryptocurrency, evaluate it carefully — it could be a scam

By concealing your real IP address and assigning you a new one, VPNs can protect you against certain types of cyberattacks. They help keep your information from hackers or snoopers sharing your network and make it more difficult for malicious websites to get access to your personal information. However, VPNs don’t offer protection against phishing scams if you willingly give away personal information or send money, which is why caution is crucial. 

If you’re seeking to enhance your digital privacy and safety, get CyberGhost VPN. As a global leader in digital security, CyberGhost offers military-grade 262-bit AES encrypted VPN tunnels and users can get an IP address from anywhere in the world. Protect yourself today, invest in your digital security. 

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