Fraud offences have been on the increase in NSW over the last two years, a report from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) reveals. The quarterly update on recorded crime statistics, released in September, shows an increase of 22% in the number of fraud cases in NSW that have been reported to police over the 24 months to June this year.
Some of the main fraud offences that have shown an increase have been against retail and wholesale outlets, and banking and financial institutions. The majority of these cases were concerned with the fraudulent use of credit and debit cards, particularly to purchase retail items. Credit card fraud was particularly high in the Illawarra area and the Richmond-Tweed areas of NSW.
What is credit card fraud?
Credit card fraud is an offence under the Crimes Act 1900. In line with recent increases in credit card and other types of identity fraud, new legislation has been brought in, which includes three new offences of identity fraud. Credit and debit card fraud falls under the category of identity fraud, and comes with serious penalties depending on the exact circumstances and the amount of money defrauded.
Section 192K of the Crimes Act deals with the possession of identification information for the purposes of committing or with the intention of committing an indictable offence. As credit and debit cards are considered a form of personal identification, credit card fraud generally falls under this category when it is dealt with in court.
Does illegal possession of identification information cover anything other than credit cards?
Other items that can lead to a charge of possession of identification information include passports, digital signatures, drivers’ licences or licence numbers, and factual information including marital status, dates of birth and any other numbers or identification details that could be used to commit identity theft. This includes biometric data and fingerprints. The maximum penalty for a conviction of possession of identification information under this section is seven years imprisonment.
What about passing along information?
Dealing in or passing on identification information is also a criminal offence under Section 192J of the Crimes Act. This offence comes with a more severe maximum penalty of up to ten years in jail.
Credit card fraud, along with most other types of fraud, is an indictable offence. This means that it is generally dealt with in the district court, and the penalties are more severe than for summary offences. As identity theft crimes can have a lasting impact on the victim and their lifestyle, they are often treated harshly in court compared with other, more traditional fraud offences.
The NSW justice system takes the unauthorised use of bank and credit cards extremely seriously. If you have been charged with fraud or an identity theft offence, it is important that you seek experienced legal advice.
The law governing identity theft and fraud is complex and can be difficult to understand. With the recent publicity surrounding identity theft and the recent changes in legislation, preparing a strong defence is essential if you want to avoid spending time in jail.
The BOCSAR report also shows upward trends in stealing from retail stores, particularly liquor (up 34.5%), and from wholesale outlets, particularly petrol (up 5.6%).