The operation covered a range of cyber scam cases, including 40 Malaysian victims lured to Peru for a high-paying job, and several citizens taken to Dubai for employment before being diverted to Thailand and Myanmar.
The Interpol operation targeting human trafficking-fueled fraud, named Operation Storm Makers II, has uncovered that crimes are spreading beyond Southeast Asia. This global initiative is designed to combat human trafficking and migrant smuggling, shedding light on the intricate network of cyber scams. Law enforcement agencies from 27 countries were mobilized for this operation.
Interpol’s efforts have generated significant results, leading to the arrest of 281 individuals involved in a range of offences, including human trafficking, passport forgery, corruption, telecommunications fraud, and sexual exploitation. Additionally, authorities have successfully rescued 149 victims through over 360 investigations, with some still ongoing.
The operation covered a range of cyber scam cases, including 40 Malaysian victims lured to Peru for a high-paying job, and several citizens taken to Dubai for employment before being diverted to Thailand and Myanmar. It involved over 270,000 inspections and police checks at 450 human trafficking global hotspots between 16 and 20 October.
Investigators found that increasing cyber fraud schemes involving fake crypto investments, work-from-home, lottery and online gambling scams are encouraging human trafficking globally. Victims are often trafficked to cyber scam centers, where they are lured through fake job ads and forced to commit online fraud.
It is worth noting that earlier this year, Interpol shut down a notorious phishing-as-a-service platform called 16shop involved in the sale of ‘phishing kits’ to hackers to scam internet users.
In a press release, Interpol’s assistant director of vulnerable communities, Rosemary Nalubega, stated that the human cost of cyber scams is continually rising and the only productive option to tackle it is concerted global action. Operation Storm Makers II has proven effective in diverting law enforcement’s attention towards cyber scams.
In India, police registered one of their first cases of human trafficking through cyber fraud whereas in Myanmar since 2022, authorities have reported rescuing trafficking victims from 22 countries, mainly from Kayin and Shan States.
Apart from the cyber scam centres, Operation Storm Makers II revealed other human trafficking and migrant smuggling offences. A 13-year-old boy from Bangladesh, who was trafficked to India, has been rescued. Two female victims from Nepal were rescued from India and sent home.
Turkish law enforcement caught 239 migrant smugglers while patrolling the country’s coastline, and intercepted around 4,000 irregular migrants. The operation also focuses on prevention, and member countries have rolled out awareness campaigns to help potential victims avoid being trafficked.
Participating countries include Angola, Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Cambodia, China, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, and Vietnam.
William Wright, CEO of Closed Door Security endorsed Interpol’s work. In a statement to Hackread.com, Wright said “The latest announcement from Interpol highlights how the whole criminal ecosystem is becoming increasingly interlinked. Now we are seeing people being trafficked and forced to commit cyber fraud, which links two of the biggest underworld industries. Gangs are now resorting to kidnapping to force people to carry out fraud, which also shows just how far beyond digital cybercrime has become today.”
Wright warned that despite the large-scale operation and its success, there is much more to be done. “The update highlights just how many scam centres are in operation today, but the numbers announced by Interpol are a drop in the ocean in comparison to the reality,” he added.
“To fight back against these horrible crimes, we need to see more collaboration from law enforcement across the world, where data is shared, and criminals are publicly sanctioned. We must also make consumers more aware of these scams, so they are better educated to recognise them and ignore them, before clicking on a malicious link or handing over their confidential information. Doing this will have a knock-on effect on scam centre profits, which will significantly hurt the criminals behind them,” Wright warned.
- EMPACT Hackathon Targets Online Human Traffickers
- Utilizing Programmatic Advertising to Locate Abducted Children
- Operation Narsil – INTERPOL Busts Decade-Old Child Abuse Network
- Anonymous Hacks Thailand Senate Website against Human Trafficking
- DARPA Builds ‘Memex’ Deep Web Search Engine to Track Sex Traffickers
- US seizes classified advertising website Backpageover human trafficking
- Senior OPERA1ER Cybercrime Gang Member Arrested in Global Operation