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Identity theft ring responsible for multimillion-dollar fraud

by Hannah Dowling5 minute read

ASIC and the AFP have begun court proceedings against suspected members of an online fraud syndicate that allegedly used stolen identity information to open bank accounts and siphon money from victims’ superannuation.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) have spent more than 12 months investigating a cybercrime syndicate, which allegedly used stolen identities to open bank accounts across Australia, and steal from victims’ superannuation and share-trading accounts worth millions of dollars.

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The accounts were reportedly opened using stolen identity information purchased from dark net marketplaces. When combined with fake email accounts and single-use SIM cards, the syndicate were able to impersonate real individuals who had unknowingly had their identities compromised.

These identifies were then used to open bank accounts at various Australian banks.

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According to ASIC, investigations to date have uncovered at least 70 bank accounts created using fraudulent identities at “various Australian banking institutions”.

The fraudulent accounts were then used to steal from the superannuation and share-trading accounts of the victims who unknowingly had their identity information taken, according to AFP and ASIC.

While investigations are continuing to identify the number of affected victims and the scale of the alleged fraud, it is expected to be worth millions of dollars – with some estimates going as high as $10 million.

Both ASIC and AFP further allege that the syndicate laundered the stolen funds through overseas purchases of jewellery and other “untraceable” assets, before transferring the money back into the country via cryptocurrencies.

A 21-year-old Melbourne woman faced court yesterday (17 September) for her alleged role in the identity theft and large-scale fraud and was granted bail by the magistrate after a brief court appearance.

Speaking of the case, AFP acting commander and manager of cybercrime operations Chris Goldsmid said this investigation revealed a complex cybercrime occurring on multiple levels.

“The consequences of the breaches we have discovered are far-reaching and can be traced back to cybercrime offences that impact everyday Australians,” acting Commander Goldsmid said.

“From identity theft, where innocent victims have their personal details stolen and sold online in dark net marketplaces, to hacking and phishing,  this investigation has illustrated the devastating impacts that compromise of your identity can have.”

ASIC deputy chair Daniel Crennan, QC, added that this matter highlights the challenging era of cyber security and cybercrime.

“Cyber security threats such as data breaches and financial system attacks are a major concern for ASIC, and we will continue to pursue not only cyber-related market and superannuation offences but also the need for institutions to maintain their obligations to ensure they have adequate cyber resilience,” he said.

Investigations are now being conducted as part of the government’s joint agency Serious Financial Crime Taskforce, and further arrests and charges have not been ruled out.

[Related: ASIC to release loan fraud report next month]

Identity theft ring responsible for multimillion-dollar fraud
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Hannah Dowling

Hannah Dowling

AUTHOR

Hannah Dowling is a journalist for The Adviser and Mortgage Business.

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