Interpol revealed last week that specialized law enforcement officers in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region intercepted more than $83 million in fraudulent money transfers as part of a six-month coordinated effort aimed at cyber-enabled financial crime.
Codenamed HAECHI-I, the operation mainly targeted five types of online financial crime: investment fraud, money laundering (from illegal online gaming), online sextortion, romance scams, and voice phishing (vishing).
The operation resulted in over 1,600 bank accounts worldwide being frozen as part of roughly 1,400 investigations opened between September 2020 and March 2021, with a total of 892 cases being solved.
As part of the effort, authorities arrested a total of 585 individuals, Interpol says.
In one case, a Korean company was targeted in a scheme where the attackers impersonated a trading partner to demand payment for a series of fraudulent invoices. The company ended up transferring roughly $7 million to the fraudsters, but authorities managed to freeze half of the stolen funds.
One ‘ramp and dump’ scheme, a type of investment fraud, involved a criminal syndicate purchasing a large quantity of specific stocks to cause a price increase, an upward trend then advertised on social media, followed by the fraudsters selling all of their stocks at a high price.
According to Interpol, a swift reaction from law enforcement resulted in the problematic trading accounts being frozen and most of the victims’ funds being recovered.
Operation HAECHI-I, the first effort of a three-year project aimed at combating cyber-enabled financial crime in Korea, saw participation from authorities in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Korea, Laos, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Although focused on the APAC region, the investigations conducted as part of this operation ended up becoming international.
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