A 30-year-old Pallara man was arrested yesterday (October 12) by Acacia Ridge detectives and charged with more than 300 offences, predominantly relating to identity fraud offences, spanning at least two years.
The 10-month investigation uncovered what will be alleged was a protracted course of fraudulent conduct involving hundreds of victims, some of whom were not aware they were victims of crime until notified by police.
The charges relate not only to the alleged possession of the identification information belonging to more than 160 people, including images of their driver licences, passports, birth certificates and Medicare cards, but also to alleged threats made to victims of the frauds who attempted to take back their online identities which had been hacked by the man.
Detective Senior Sergeant Justin Anderson, Officer in Charge of Acacia Ridge CIB said police seized numerous electronic devices during the execution of a search warrant at the man’s home in December 2021.
“Subsequent analysis of the devices revealed the extent of the alleged offending including copies of messages where threats to murder two victims were allegedly made and another victim allegedly threatened that their identification information would be published online if they did not pay money.”
It will be alleged by police that the seized devices contained more than 1,500 passwords associated with online identities which enabled access to not only victims’ social media accounts but also their bank accounts.
“After taking over victim’s accounts it will be alleged that online purchases for products, paid for from the victims’ accounts, were made, as well as fraudulently lodging tax returns in the names of 12 victims and connecting mobile phone accounts in the names of 46 people,” D/Senior Sergeant Anderson said.
“This extensive investigation involved liaison with interstate police and the Australian Cyber Security Centre as the alleged offender’s activities involved victims across numerous Australian states and territories including Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria,” he said.
The seized devices also allegedly contained evidence of drug offences including supplying dangerous drugs.
D/Senior Sergeant Anderson said that as more and more personal data is stored and accessed online, the community needs to be vigilant in terms of protecting their personal information and should regularly monitor their online accounts for any suspicious activity.
“Cybercrime has far-reaching impacts on individuals and the community at large. It causes significant angst to victims but there are support agencies available which can provide appropriate advice, such as IDCare,” he said.
“We are urging anyone who suspects they may be a victim of any sort of cybercrime to report it via the Australian Government’s ReportCyber website.”
The Pallara man was denied police bail and remanded in custody to appear in the Brisbane Magistrates Court today (October 13).
Operation Uniform Tatsuya commenced in November 2021 to investigate suspected cases of computer hacking, identity theft, online threats and fraud offences committed against a large number of people.
In December 2021 detectives executed a search warrant at a Pallara address with police alleging they confiscated mobile telephones, laptop computers, sim cards, numerous hard drives and dangerous drugs.
Police will allege forensic examination of these devices identified photographs, videos, documents and conversations in relation to fraudulent activity, some of which include identity theft, taking over of peoples online profiles, social media accounts, bank accounts, as well as threats to commit murder.
Some of the documentation, including large spreadsheets, contained details of income tax returns, bank account details, social media accounts, login details and passwords, passports, birth certificates, Medicare cards, health cards and bank cards.
Police will allege 1536 passwords were located that were associated with online accounts of people. Some of the alleged offending included 35 people who had their social media, email, banking or other online identities unlawfully accessed and account login details changed. Twelve people had their bank account details changed and therefore monies diverted from a government entity into this new account.
Online purchases of goods and services allegedly occurred with items delivered to a home address, with payment occurring via well know online upfront and pay late purchase schemes.
Some of the major charges include – 170 counts of obtaining or dealing with identity information, 44 counts of computer hacking/misuse, 37 counts of personation in general, 24 counts of obtaining financial advantage by deception, one count of fraud (carry on a business), one count of extortion and two counts of written threats to murder.
If you have information for police, contact Policelink by providing information using the online suspicious activity form 24hrs per day at www.police.qld.gov.au/reporting.
Report crime information anonymously via Crime Stoppers. Call 1800 333 000 or report online at www.crimestoppersqld.com.au.