Frustration as a force for good

June 17, 2017


This is what I was proud to be a part of last week.

Europol coordinated the Global Airport Action Day, sixth one, if I remember correctly. There were a couple regional ones, so I lost the count.


153 suspects arrested in a world-wide operation joining Law Enforcement, airlines, financial sector and travel agencies. 153. It is just a number, but what is behind it?


The press release (this link) describes it in general terms.


What the  Press Relase doesn't describe, is the unmeasurable amount of cooperation, good will, spirit of a community and practical solutions!


It started years ago. 


As a representative of the Finnish police in Europol in 2013, I participated a regular meeting of Card Fraud Experts. We noticed that card fraud was rising and the most affected industry was the airlines.


In the meeting, where all European Member States were represented, a round-the-table of complaining was taken, as usual – it is difficult to tackle cross-border fraud, especially when it happens partly in cyber space, touching multiple jurisdictions.


In that meeting, a constructive point-of-frustration emerged. Complaining wouldn't help. We'd have to jump outside of our comfort zone. We realized that we must invite the European airlines to the next meeting and ask them if they would like to work with us. And this we did: the following week we sent invitations to fraud managers of 27 European airlines, inviting them to cooperation.


The next expert meeting was 3 months later, and guess what: They all came to the meeting! Not even one of the invited airlines missed the call. That's when we knew we'd hit the right spot.


I was lucky to know Ms. Meta Backmann, the fraud manager of Finnair, the national airline carrier in Finland, and that she had established the European Airline Fraud Working Group a few years earlier. The meeting was a success, and exchange of information and joint analysis was agreed, and an operational action was already forming.


The rest is history. In the coordination of Europol and Ms. Backmann, we have already organized seven operational actions, resulting in arresting more than 800 fraudsters, and bringing to surface all kinds of organized crime groups, that obviously also travel while committing international crimes.


Why am I telling you this? Because there is always more behind the Press Release: human interaction, decisions, solution-oriented thoughts of motivated individuals.


With small group of motivated colleagues, in 2013, we were able to launch a phenomenon that today covers all continents, dozens of countries, hundreds of airlines and airports and has been able to turn card fraud losses of airlines to a clearly decreasing trend.


And the first step it took was frustration.

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