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.