Identity theftPeople are starting to get angry over scams and identity theft. As anyone with a computer, a telephone or who banks would know – the attempts to steal our financial information, or to scam us online are getting more and more frequent, but it seems the prosecutions are not increasing. We examine Michael Pasoce’s controversial opinion piece from todays The Age. The piece refers to criticism that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and Police are ignoring 99.9 per cent of scamsters.

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

Michael Pasoce’s article Watchdog lacking any bite as scammers fleece us is pretty damning of the ACCC and the Australian Police, and their lack of ‘bite’ in matters of prosecution of fraudsters. Here is an excerpt from Pascoe’s article today:

“The ACCC doesn’t even try to lumber fraudsters and scam artists – it just hopes to “disrupt” them with a little education of us mugs. Education is indeed a good thing and that deserves a tick, but locking up the very nasty little perpetrators wouldn’t be a bad idea either. They’re not even trying.

Responsibility for that of course should be shared with the various police fraud squads – but they are rather hopelessly under-manned, under-skilled and really only interested in the big stuff, preferably if it’s rather simple, old-fashioned fraud.

Many of the online and telephone con artists are based overseas, but there are plenty of low-life locals as well. Successful fraudsters keep their jobs relatively small and remain mobile. That way the police and ACCC won’t bother taking an interest, even when a case is handed to them on a platter.

At last month’s Retail World conference (disclosure: I was paid to chair it), online retailers told how completely frustrated they were in trying to get any authority to take action over fraud.

For example, a fridge is purchased online by someone using a credit card. Fridge is delivered. The owner of the credit card phones his or her bank claiming they did not authorise the purchase – perhaps claiming a child used the card without permission. The bank refunds the money to their customer and hits the retailer with a charge-back. In the words of the Queensland Police website, the retailer then becomes the complainant – nearly all the time, police don’t want to know about it.

What’s more, from the same website: “If the cardholder is reimbursed for the loss, financial institutions have agreed that they do not require the cardholder to report the matter to police for investigation.”

The banks are treating this sort of fraud as merely a cost of business. The retailers are getting nothing in return for their merchant fees.

A major online white goods retailer told me one of the fraudsters tried to hit them a second time. The retailer attempted to interest the local gendarmes in catching the thief in the act – but they weren’t interested.”

Pascoe argues that the supposed authorities have been overwhelmed by this class of crime.

“The law is too complicated in dealing with it, the manpower to tackle it is not forthcoming, there is yet again no sign of anyone having fire in the belly, a desire to kick heads. The scumbags who prey upon the gullible effectively have a free hand to go forth and defraud while police will visit a pop star’s hotel room to inspect a half a joint,” he says.

So if it all too complicated – is the argument still there for reporting scams and other forms of identity theft to Police or other authorities even if no monies are lost?

Absolutely. Without reporting, authorities won’t have any idea of the scale of the problem, and that is the first step towards fixing it. I have long been of the belief that not requiring the reporting of fraud which has been reimbursed by banks is exacerbating the problems in this area. The thing is, all of these small instances may just be a drop in the ocean, but they could all be drops from the same source.

Was Pascoe right to call to task the authorities over a lack of prosecutions in this area?

Absolutely. It is important that we apply pressure to government and to Police, to find a way to locate and prosecute fraudsters, or to justify why they can’t.

In reality, prosecutions can be difficult simply because of the global nature of this crime. Small time fraudsters may be doing all of the leg work here – and on selling the information to global syndicates. Or fraudsters may be able to buy personal information obtained by international fraudsters and use it to obtain credit in Australia. It is a tangled web – but it’s one we should be throwing time, money and resources into now and in the future.

Identity theft and your credit file

Cyber-crime can be perpetrated by stealing the personal information of individuals, generally through obtaining it via virus software known as ‘malware’ or by phishing scams which appear to be genuine companies asking for personal details which can then be used to generate fake identification. Then the fraudster will go about taking out credit in the victim’s name. If the theft goes undetected, the fraudster can be racking up thousands of dollars in debt in the person’s name. This is when identity fraud affects the victim’s credit file. When this happens, it is not only the victim’s bank accounts that can be affected, but more importantly their ability to obtain credit in the future.

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.

For information on preventing identity theft, and help with repairing a credit rating following fraud, contact MyCRA Credit Repair, or call tollfree 1300 667 218.

Image: Victor Habbick/