cyber-crimeInterested in the changing face of cyber-crime? The International Serious and Organised Crime Conference was held in Brisbane on Tuesday, and shed some light on where we’re heading. The Conference has heard that technology changes has made organised crime more complex and more open to new crime markets – including intellectual property crime, and cyber-crime. The conference heard that Australian law enforcement was no longer working in relative isolation, and that it has been necessary over the last 10 years to expand partnerships, both nationally and internationally. We examine the relevant subjects in this important Conference, and look at what this means for your financial identity and your credit file in the future.

By Graham Doessel, Founder and CEO of MyCRA Credit Rating Repair and

Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Justice, Jason Clare released Organised Crime in Australia 2013 on Tuesday – the Australian Crime Commission’s report on serious and organised crime in Australia. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Australian Crime Commission.

The report concludes that organised crime is more pervasive, more powerful and more complex than ever before.

“Organised crime worldwide makes more than $870 billion every year. That’s bigger than the GDP of Indonesia. If organised crime was a country it would be in the G20.” Mr Clare said.

The Australian Crime Commission estimates that organised crime costs the Australian economy alone $15 billion each year.

Australian Crime Commission CEO, John Lawler revealed at his keynote address to the conference that 67 per cent of our nationally significant serious and organised crime targets are linked to at least one international jurisdiction, with most focused in South-East Asia. These targets have a detrimental impact on Australia, and are sourcing illicit commodities from overseas including from Asia, Africa, Europe and South America.

“Once, encounters with organised crime were largely restricted to those who sought out illicit commodities or illegal activities. Today, any Australian on any day can be impacted.

What used to take a number of people and considerable time to commit a crime against 10 others, can now be committed by one individual against many more from behind a computer screen,” he told the Conference.

He also identified an increasing incidence of Australian investors falling victim to investment scams as well as credit card or identity fraud.

“Organised crime is no longer its own institution; it has now moved into every estate, it has pervaded each level of global society…And in Australia, we are seeing organised crime increasingly hiding clandestine activities through legitimate business enterprises,” Mr Lawler said.

“Today, more than ever, the affect of organised crime on Australians is unparalleled. It’s pervasive, powerful and complex.”

He says the only way to break the business of organised crime is through rich, contemporaneous, and comprehensive criminal intelligence. The ACC says it’s focused on data sharing with national and international agencies and businesses. ‘Big data sharing’ will be the way of the future.

“Data, on its own, is of little use to law enforcement. It’s only when we pull the data together, analyse it and make links, that the real discovery and prevention can happen,” Lawler said.

He says in the modern era, this also means partnering with law enforcement and Government, as well as private industry.

As a result of recent legislative changes to the Australian Crime Commission Act, the ACC now discloses information to private industry.

“We want to work with industry to use the Commission to build a strong understanding of risk and threat; to strengthen practices and ultimately make it difficult for organised crime to operate in Australia.

This is also about a whole-of-community approach. The public are now key players in the fight,” Mr Lawler said.

Task-Force Galilee: Investment Fraud

During his speech, Mr Lawler describes the work the ACC did in dealing with a rampant investment fraud impacting Australians. Here is an excerpt from his speech, detailing the nature of the fraud, and the process the ACC went through to identify the groups involved:

We had intelligence of 2600 Australians with losses in excess of $113 million. This crime was being committed off-shore. Traditional law enforcement efforts were being frustrated. These organised crime groups have established a sophisticated business model. They rely on global inconsistency around legislation and jurisdiction and target developing countries from which to perpetrate their crimes.

Most callously, they target the elderly at a time when they should be enjoying their retirement.

In response, Task Force Galilee brought together approximately 20 agencies to put together a multi-layered response.

An important component was a public awareness campaign which included holding industry briefings, lauching a public report with the AIC to provide a picture of the threat.
And, for the first time in law enforcement history, we partnered with Australia Post and sent a letter to every household in Australia warning them about this criminal activity and providing information on how to avoid becoming a victim.

Market research undertaken following this campaign indicated increased public awareness and preventative behaviour from the public and high-risk groups when approached or targeted by investment fraudsters.

Task Force Galilee has also had some successful operational outcomes, a huge feat when working across international borders.

The most recent outcome occurred in April, when following a referral from the ACC, Thai authorities raided a suspect business premises in the central business district of Bangkok.

During the raid, Thai authorities located nine foreigners as well as a number of Thai nationals. A range of incriminating evidence including telephones, call scripts, client lists and computer equipment were also located and seized.

The criminal syndicate responsible had engaged a plethora of professional advisers located around the globe to assist their fraudulent behaviour ranging from corporate consulting firms to company incorporation and taxation advisers.

Using a sophisticated website, supported by fraudulent prospectuses and the illegal use of company brands, the syndicate was able to sell non-existent shares in more than 20 companies.

The complexity of the syndicate’s operations allowed it to successfully target victims in 19 countries across the world.

The Australian Crime Commission estimates that the operation had generated at least A$45 million from Australian-based victims alone.

The ACC and other international agencies have focused a significant amount of their efforts in unravelling the ‘dark market’ out there. To see the connections which exist between the internet and organised crime. To identify the fraudulent opportunities that can be thought up, bought, and perpetrated on a global scale. The ease with which international access can mean the big players can dodge detection and dissipate their possible negative impact. So the web is pretty tangled and requires lots of effort to find out what forces are at play. When you look at a scam email which has made its way to your email address – it might be pertinent to question, who is it really from? And who will benefit if you fall for it?

The impact of cyber-crime on you can be far reaching. Falling for scams, whether large scale like the investment scam or even disclosing your personal information to the wrong person can put you at risk of identity theft. You may never have your bank accounts touched, but someone may gain access to your personal information, generally through obtaining it via virus software known as ‘malware’ or by phishing scams which can then be used to generate fake identification. Fraudsters may then create a fake identity in your name and even take out credit.

If the theft goes undetected, the fraudster can be racking up thousands of dollars in debt in your name. When this happens, it is not only your bank accounts that can be affected, but your financial identity – your good name which is destroyed.

In Australia, if a credit file holder fails to make repayments on credit past 60 days, then a default can be placed on their credit file by the creditor. This default remains on the credit file for 5 years, and can severely hinder their chances of getting credit once it is placed. For the identity theft victim, this can leave them severely disadvantaged for 5 years, and unable to take out legitimate credit. The only way they may be able to restore their good name is through lots of hard work proving to creditors they did not initiate the credit.

So prevention is key. Made possible through education, through strong protection from Police and Government agencies, and through appropriate legislation to prevent ‘loopholes’ which make Australians targets for cybercriminals.

Image: Victor Habbick/