Anti-fraud cop calls for increased collaboration

With only 5 percent of all fraud cases reported in Victoria, detective sergeant and identity management preacher Rodney Mills has called for better communication between business and government to help combat this growing problem.

Speaking at the inaugural identity management summit in Sydney on fraud trends in Australia, Mills said the $50 million worth of fraud saved every year could be up around $500 million with increased awareness and police cooperation.

"Companies need to put security in place so they're not assisting offenders and there needs to be more information sharing between law enforcement agencies and the public and private sector," Mills said, adding identity-related crime is now the fastest growing crime in the world. "ID crime is made up of a number of areas and we are trying to get consistency across financial institutions."

A fraud strategy project team member for the major fraud investigation division, Mills referred to last year's agreement with the Australian Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers' Association (AEEMA) on quashing Internet and card scams as an example of what's needed.

"We share information with AEEMA, and within the fraud strategy there is a reference group including the department of justice and banks on how we can share information in the future," he said. "The cost of fraud in Australia is about $5 billion per year, which is about one-third of the cost of crime in Australia, which is about $19 billion."

Mills said the rate of identity fraud here is catching up quickly with world trends because it is difficult to detect, easy to do, and since the crime does not involve violence against a person the courts are lenient in sentencing offenders.

With 18 years of policing behind him, Mills spoke of common tactics used by fraudsters to steal identities for financial gain.

"What is the most common form of ID theft? Stealing from letter boxes," he said. "In some Asian areas of Melbourne documents are being stolen and used for people smuggling."

Mills highlighted one case of a convicted identity thief who had the "audacity" to use a prison photo on one of his nine fake licences.

"Some people are pretty good at what they do [and he] had the ability to take over someone's ID to raid superannuation funds, which is another emerging trend," he said, adding that offender actually got better at it when caught for a second time.

On credit card fraud Mills said it's easy to test how seriously a vendor treats security by deliberately writing a false signature when making a purchase.

"If the person questions it and you say 'I want to see the manager', nine times out of ten they will say 'don't worry'," he said. "Card vendors have set a deadline of 2010 to put a chip in the card, which is a good start."

Mills recommends keeping a close eye on your card to prevent a merchant from "skimming" the information from the magnetic strip and cited one case where a petrol station attendant in Melbourne being paid $25 per "skim" performed 2500 every week with most of the card details being sent to Canada.

Other precautions include setting a low limit on your card and in the words of one hacker "burn all your credit-card receipts" because nothing is safe.

Because "the crooks are trying to keep up with technology", Mills estimates it takes on average six months and $2000 to clear your name in the event of your identity being stolen.

In a video feed to the conference, federal Attorney General Philip Ruddock said the government puts a high priority on identity management and is "constantly working to strengthen ID security".

Ruddock said the national ID card review is an important first step to improving the national security strategy and identity verification processes.

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