The Attorney-General Nicola Roxon announced yesterday new laws in Australia will mean white collar criminals and serious and organised crime groups will face tougher penalties. We look at what those penalties will mean, and how they can prevent identity theft and subsequent credit fraud leading to bad credit history.
This week is National Identity Fraud Awareness Week October 8-14.
By Graham Doessel, Founder and CEO of MyCRA Credit Rating Repairs and www.fixmybadcredit.com.au.
Legislation introduced into Parliament yesterday – The Crime Bill, will aim to deter white collar criminals and organised crime groups. The Bill will increase financial penalties for all Commonwealth crimes, and create a new offence of using a false identity when travelling on aeroplanes. It will make it a crime to use a false identity to book a flight over the internet or to take a commercial flight. It will also be a crime to use a false identity when identifying oneself for a flight.
Another significant change as part of The Crime Bill will be an increase to penalty units. “Penalty units” in the Commonwealth Crimes Act will increase from $110 to $170. These have not increased since 1997.
“Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in Australia. This Bill will make it a criminal offence to use a false identity when travelling within Australia by air or booking domestic flights online or using a mobile phone,” the Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said in a statement to the media.
“Organised criminals invent or steal identities in order to evade detection and commit serious crimes such as money laundering, drug offences, fraud and terrorism.
The bill expands laws against identity theft by making it a crime to use a carriage service like the internet or a mobile phone to obtain identity information with the intention of committing another offence.
So for instance, if fraudsters use the internet to obtain your personal information and it was shown the intention was to commit fraud, then the new laws should in theory kick in -placing a crime in not only the attempted fraud, but the actual misuse of your identity information. Personal information is such a valuable commodity in criminal circles. Criminals can use your personal information to impersonate you, commit crimes, and also to take out credit in your name, leaving you with a pile of debt and bad credit history as the calling card. So this is a significant improvement.
Ms Roxon said an example of the effect of the increase in penalty units was the maximum fine for obtaining a financial advantage by deception would jump from $66,000 to $102,000 for an individual.
“This is a significant increase and should send a strong message that crime does not pay,” she told The Australian yesterday (Flying under false name to be a crime).
Some more examples of how changes could deter criminals:
• A person who dishonestly uses the financial information of another person without their consent will face up to $51,000 in fines, up from $33,000. Companies who commit this crime could be liable for more than a quarter of a million dollars in fines, up from $165,000;
• A person who knowingly makes a false or misleading statement in documents they lodge with ASIC will face up to $34,000 in fines, up from $22,000. A company will be liable for up to $170,000 in fines, up from $110,000.
This may go some way to deterring identity thieves within Australia. But there is still a significant amount of fraud related crime which originates from outside Australia. Widespread internet use means identity crime can have very long arms. And this is the real problem with this type of crime. It can be difficult to find let alone prosecute and penalise criminals for identity crime and other financial crimes when it doesn’t originate on our shores. But it was probably a necessary to step for the government to take to fight this global problem of identity crime nationally.
To find out more about identity crime, and how it could impact your credit rating, you can read our last post Is your good name at risk? What you may not know about identity theft and your credit file. If you are looking to remove bad credit history after identity theft, contact a Credit Repair Advisor on 1300 667 218 or visit our main site www.mycra.com.au.