An Interpol operation, dubbed as ‘First Light 2022,’ has seized over 50 million dollars and arrested thousands of people involved in social engineering scams globally.

The operation, led by the Interpol, involved the assistance of police in 76 nations and centred on social engineering crimes involving telephone deception, romance scams, business email compromise (BEC) scams, as well as money laundering.

Social engineering refers to the manipulation of victims by threat actors, via human interaction, to deceive them into doing some act or provide sensitive information.

Social engineering actors usually provide an excuse to request a payment, but they may also use stolen information to sell it to other criminals, gain access to networks/systems, perform blackmail, and many more. 

According to the FTC, victims in the US have lost $547 million to romance scams in 2021 and the FBI reports that BEC scams have resulted in almost $2.4 billion in reported losses.

Interpol’s First Light 2022 operation targeted romance scams, email deception, scamming frauds, and telephone deception, as these are all acts commonly associated with financial crimes.

One particular case highlighted by Interpol was a Chinese national who had defrauded 24,000 victims out of $35,700,000 and a phoney kidnap case that demanded a ransom of $1,575,000 from the victim’s parents.

The Interpol also highlighted a surging number of Ponzi-like job scams posing as e-commerce affiliations and e-shop business opportunities.

Another 2022 trend mentioned by the Interpol is the impersonation of the agency’s officials, threatening people to pay the phoney agents money to halt an investigation against them.

Furthermore, the Interpol says there is a significant increase in human trafficking on social media platforms, where people are deceived with lucrative employment that leads to forced labor, sexual slavery, or captivity in casinos or fishing vessels.