Over the past 18 months FIN has worked closely with Prevention of Fraud in Travel (PROFiT) and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) to analyse how travel fraud fits into the wider economic criminal landscape.
Analysis has shown that not only is travel fraud strongly linked to fraud in other sectors and financial in general, but also connected to other organised criminal. It is not a surprise that travel is targeted by criminals who operate across borders and move throughout the world to facilitate their criminal activity it is less obvious that the high value products available provide the opportunity to use the travel industry to fund activities, manage money transfers, and enjoy their ill-gotten gains.
Fraudsters need to fund their criminal activity and the travel industry offers a unique opportunity to do
· It is not unusual to pay for travel arrangements in cash, and travel gives the opportunity to process large volumes of cash without raising suspicion;
· It’s easy to disguise a sudden receipt of illegal money into the business during a peak period as this will be seen as the norm by travel industry bodies.
· Fraudsters using travel don’t have to be located within the UK to sell product to the UK.
· The time and costs involved in setting-up a fraudulent travel agency are minimal
· If someone is suspicious about fraudsters activities it is easy enough to shut down the website and the ‘business’ and move to another domain and location to start up again relatively quickly.
According to the National Crime Agency (NCA):
“Organised crime can be defined as serious crime planned, coordinated and conducted by people working together on a continuing basis. Their motivation is often, but not always, financial gain. Organised criminals working together for a particular criminal activity or activities are called an organised crime group.
Organised crime group structures vary. Successful organised crime groups often consist of a durable core of key individuals. Around them is a cluster of subordinates, specialists, and other more transient members, plus an extended network of associates.”
Organised Crime Groups are corrosive to the travel industry as they take millions of pounds worth of legitimate bookings away from genuine travel companies, increase the cost of business insurance and bonds, and cause card acquirers to implement tough rules on travel companies.