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Interpol Seizes 300 Million USD from Romance Scams, Deepfakes, Extortion


December 20, 2023

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Interpol Seizes 300 Million USD from Romance Scams, Deepfakes, Extortion

Interpol has arrested 3,500 people and seized 300 million USD in proceeds from cybercrime, including scams leveraging AI technology, in 34 countries.

The six-month operation, codenamed HAECHI IV, targeted a plurality of online scams, including voice phishing, romance scams, extortion, investment fraud, money laundering associated with illegal online gambling, business email compromise, e-commerce fraud, and deepfakes.

Investigators worked together to track fraudsters and freeze their bank accounts. Authorities blocked more than 82,000 suspicious bank accounts, seizing a combined 199 million USD in hard currency and 101 million in cryptocurrency and non fungible tokens (NFTs).

“The seizure of USD 300 million represents a staggering sum and clearly illustrates the incentive behind today’s explosive growth of transnational organized crime,” said Stephen Kavanagh, INTERPOL’s Executive Director of Police Services. “This represents the savings and hard-earned cash of victims. This vast accumulation of unlawful wealth is a serious threat to global security and weakens the economic stability of nations worldwide.”

Investment fraud, business email compromise and e-commerce fraud accounted for 75% of the cases investigated in the operation.

During the bust, Interpol issued two important warnings to member countries:

A new scam detected in Korea involving the sale of NFTs with promises of huge returns, turned out to be a “rug pull,” where developers abruptly abandon a project and investors lose their money - a growing scam in the crypto industry, according to the notice.

The use of AI and deep fake technology to lend credibility to scams by letting criminals hide their identities and pose as family members, friends or love interests.

In the UK, investigators brought to light several cases where deepfake technology was used to deceive, defraud, harass and extort victims, particularly through impersonation scams, blackmail and investment fraud.

Cases using AI-generated synthetic content also involved the impersonation of people known to the victims through voice cloning technology – a type of scam best known in the infosec industry as voice phishing, or vishing.

To combat online scams, Bitdefender recommends you:

1. Verify Account Authenticity: Always double-check an account's legitimacy, even if it appears credible at first glance.

2. Beware of too-good-to-be-true offers: Be wary of pushy, urgent calls to action that seem overly advantageous.

3. Cross-check information: consult only official sources when managing finances.

4. Avoid Unknown Websites: Refrain from connecting your wallet to unfamiliar or questionable websites.

5. Use Cold Wallets and Security Software: Opt for cold wallets for added security and invest in a dedicated security solution like Bitdefender Ultimate Security to guard against digital threats.




Filip has 15 years of experience in technology journalism. In recent years, he has turned his focus to cybersecurity in his role as Information Security Analyst at Bitdefender.

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