AUSTRALIANS have been urged to report any suspicious credit card activity after seven people were charged over a massive $6 million credit card scam using stolen personal information.
Five people in Sydney and two in Melbourne have been arrested over a scam involving the manufacture and distribution of more than 200 fraudulent credit cards a week, using personal details obtained here and overseas.
Personal information was stolen from card holders in Australia, Spain, the UK and Malaysia, then allegedly used by the syndicate to manufacture fake credit cards, Medicare cards and driver's licences in Australia.
The cards were then used by syndicate shoppers allegedly to purchase about $500,000 worth of items every week. The false driver's licences and Medicare cards acted as secondary information to back up the fake credit cards.
Yesterday police from the Identity Security Strike Team (ISST), which includes officers from the Australian Federal Police, NSW Police Force, Australian Crime Commission, NSW Crime Commission and Department of Immigration and Citizenship, arrested five men in Sydney over the $6 million fraud.
A man and a woman were also arrested in Melbourne yesterday.
AFP Assistant Commissioner Mandy Newton said the arrests were a warning to Australian card holders, because personal credit information had been stolen by methods such as skimming, which was now a global problem.
"What we are identifying is a global issue, it is not just in Australia," Ms Newton said.
"What the community needs to make sure they do, is if you see on your credit card statements purchases that were made from different location that you haven't made, you need to be very wary of that and notify your credit card group immediately so that your credit card can be cancelled."
The syndicate first came to the attention of police during a 2008 Department of Immigration investigation into a suspected illegal work racket, which uncovered evidence of the credit card fraud.
"The information obtained through that investigation identified several illegal citizens who had been arrested for shopping along the east coast using fraudulent credit cards," a Immigration Department investigator Peter Richards said.
"It's believed that these people were actually being used as the shoppers by this syndicate."
Police allege a 53-year-old man from Homebush, in Sydney's west, received credit card details from overseas and forwarded them to a 35-year-old man in the eastern Sydney suburb of Potts Point.
The Potts Point man allegedly used the data to produce fake credit cards and identity documents, and gave them back to the Homebush man.
He in turn allegedly distributed the credit cards and other documents to "supervisors", who passed them on to "shoppers".
The "shoppers" were allegedly told what to purchase with the cards and received a percentage of the value of the items eventually onsold at a discount.
The items included electronic goods, gift cards, phone cards, alcohol and stamps.
More than 1200 credit card numbers have been involved in the scam since March 2009, Ms Newton said.
"The rational behind having ... 1200 credit cards .. is to ensure a high turnover of credit cards for the purpose of shopping and reduce the likelihood of identifying them as being false," Ms Newton said.
By Adam Bennett