The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS -

CRIM­I­NALS who once spe­cialised in break-and-en­ters are be­hind a surge in credit-card theft and iden­tity fraud.

The for­mer bur­glars are switch­ing to crimes that are eas­ier to com­mit and carry less risk of get­ting caught.

The big­gest rises in card theft and iden­tity fraud have hap­pened in coun­try NSW and it has been pro­posed for Fraud Squad de­tec­tives to be per­ma­nently re­lo­cated to re­gional cen­tres to fight the trend.

The crimes are be­ing driven by drug ad­dic­tion, po­lice said.

De­tec­tive Su­per­in­ten­dent Arthur Kat­so­gian­nis, com­man­der of the Fraud Squad, said cases were down 6.4 per cent in Syd­ney, but had risen else­where in the past 12 months.

“We’re see­ing more peo­ple that used to be in­volved in break and en­ters and other crimes switch­ing over to credit-card fraud,” Supt Kat­so­gian­nis told The Sun­day Tele­graph.

NSW Bureau of Crime Sta­tis­tics and Re­search fig­ures show fraud in­creases in 69 ar­eas out­side Syd­ney.

In Armidale, fraud is up 55 per cent. In Gunda­gai cases were up 49 per cent, fol­lowed by Bathurst at 40 per cent, Grafton at 33 per cent, the Hawkes­bury at 28 per cent, and Dubbo at 22 per cent.

Mail theft un­der­pins these crimes — of­fend­ers typ­i­cally steal yet-to-be ac­ti­vated credit cards and com­bine the de­tails with phone bills and data from so­cial me­dia to as­sume a vic­tim’s iden­tity.

In March last year a man and woman were pulled over just out­side Nowra car­ry­ing bank cards stolen from sev­eral vic­tims.

When of­fi­cers raided their house they found per­sonal doc­u­ments and un­opened mail stolen from homes in Berry, Kan­ga­roo Val­ley and Shoal­haven Heads.

In an­other case, po­lice raided a Ray­mond Ter­race prop­erty last year, ar­rest­ing a 23-year-old cou­ple and re­cov­er­ing hun­dreds of mail items.

Of­fi­cials say fraud has be­come at­trac­tive to crim­i­nals be­cause it’s eas­ier than a break-and-en­ter and, po­ten­tially, more prof­itable.

In Or­ange, where fraud rates rose 22 per cent, po­lice say the re­laxed life­style had made smaller com­mu­ni­ties more sus­cep­ti­ble to mail theft.

Of­fend­ers en­ter a unit com­plex. One ri­fles through the let­ter boxes. Un­de­terred, they both go to work. The other looks out for any ten­ants.

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