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The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and the Australian Federal Police (AFP) arrested a 21-year-old Melbourne-based woman for her association in a crypto fraud and identity theft operation run by a group of scammers.
If found guilty, she will be charged with a wide range of criminal offenses. The fraudsters reportedly created fake identities to steal the funds from retirement accounts and share trading accounts of unsuspecting individuals. The group used digital coins in an attempt to hide the theft and launder the stolen haul.
According to the AFP and ASIC, which has been investigating this multi-layered cybercrime activity for more than a year, the criminals were creating fake identities that mimic the ones of the victims and opened bank accounts at various Australian banking institutions. These accounts were then used to siphon the funds from victims’ trading accounts and pension fund accounts. The criminals are suspected to use cryptocurrencies in order to launder the stolen money.
Digging deeper into the story, the ASIC and the AFP further alleged that the woman worked as part of a syndicate which acquired personal identities of individuals illegally to commit a large-scale online fraud. The said group of fraudsters used marketplaces on the dark web to purchase the stolen identity information of the victims along with fake emails and single-use telephone SIM cards to take complete control over identity.
Later, the fraudsters used these compromised identities to open bank accounts in various banks across the country. As per the investigation, at least 70 bank accounts were created using the poached identities. Investigators are still working on identifying the number of targeted victims and the scale of the alleged fraud.
Once the bank accounts are opened, they allegedly stole the funds from victims’ accounts and laundered the money by purchasing digital assets that are not easily traceable. The funds were returned to Australia back in cryptocurrencies, which could have been converted to traditional fiat money without a trace.
AFP Manager Cyber Crime Operations, acting Commander Chris Goldsmid, said:
“This complex and detailed investigation revealed cybercrime occurring on multiple levels, and is an example of strong partnerships between Commonwealth Government agencies working together to disrupt organized crime that affects the Australian community.”
He further explained how the stolen identities sold online in dark web marketplaces in exchange for various virtual assets and how badly these compromised identities can affect the targeted individuals.
Explaining the upcoming ear of the digitalization and various challenges associated with it, ASIC Deputy Chair Daniel Crennan, QC, said:
“Cybersecurity threats such as data breaches and financial system attacks are a major concern for ASIC and we will continue to pursue not only cyber-related market and superannuation offending but also the need for institutions to maintain their obligations to ensure they have adequate cyber resilience.”
The investigation seems to be continued. No other arrest warrants and charges have been issued yet.