Two criminals are in jail, with a guard escorting a prisoner to a prison cell.

Interpol Busts Online Scams: $257 Million Seized

Interpol announced on June 27 that it has busted various internet fraud networks across several countries. The operation resulted in the arrest of nearly 4000 people and the recovery of $257 million in criminal assets.

The operation, code-named First Light, involved the law enforcement agencies of 61 different countries. According to an Interpol official release, police targeted a variety of fraudulent operations, including phishing, investment fraud, fake online shopping sites, romance scams, and identity scams.

Operation First Light by Interpol Results in Large-Scale Arrests and Asset Recovery
Operation First Light by Interpol Results in Large-Scale Arrests and Asset Recovery (Interpol)

According to Interpol, Operation First Light is part of an international police effort that has been supported by China’s Ministry of Public Security since 2014. The operation uncovered around 14,600 more suspects worldwide in addition to apprehending thousands of prospective cybercriminals.

Law enforcement seized defendants’ real estate, luxury automobiles, expensive jewellery, and other valuable items. They also froze 6,745 bank accounts used for fraud transactions.

Law enforcement seized luxury items and high-value assets in a major cybercrime operation

The cops recovered $331,000 from a business email compromise (BEC) scam. A Spanish victim had unknowingly sent the funds to someone in Hong Kong.

The agency’s General Secretariat headquarters supported local law enforcement initiatives in countries like Namibia and made a substantial contribution to the analysis of data from seized devices. Police in Namibia saved 88 teenagers who had been forced into fraud schemes by a global criminal organisation.

Police tracked down and seized USD 331,000 from a commercial email hack scam using INTERPOL’s Global Rapid Intervention of Payments (I-GRIP) system. The money was moved to Hong Kong, China, by the victim, who is in Spain.

Similarly, authorities in Australia recovered AUD 5.5 million (USD 3.7 million) for an impersonation scam victim. The stolen cash were moved to bank accounts in Malaysia and Hong Kong, China. Authorities in Singapore, Hong Kong, and China stopped a tech support fraud, saving a 70-year-old from losing $281,200 in savings.

According to Dr. Isaac Kehinde Oginni, Director of INTERPOL’s Financial Crime and Anti-Corruption Centre (IFCACC):

The results of this global police operation are more than just numbers—they represent lives protected, crimes prevented, and a healthier global economy worldwide. 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.

Online fraudsters operating from places like China are increasingly targeting major companies like Walmart, Target, and IKEA. These fraudulent sellers not only sell inferior or non-existent goods, but they also take advantage of credit card numbers, addresses, phone numbers, and other stolen personal data to commit identity theft.

Speaking on behalf of China’s Ministry of Public Security, Yong Wang, Head of the INTERPOL National Central Bureau in Beijing, highlighted the importance of social engineering fraud worldwide. Organised crime organisations target individuals all around the world, from Southeast Asia to the Middle East and Africa, highlighting the importance of strong international collaboration in combating this common risk.

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