ID theft soars as government communication remains lax

Identity fraud costing more than a billion

The Australian Federal Police has blamed a lack of interoperability between state and federal departments for inhibiting its ability to pursue and arrest perpetrators of identity crime.

Speaking at an identity management forum in Sydney, AFP national coordinator for the identity crime task force Rob Tunnicliff said the lack of communication between state and government departments is limiting avenues available to the AFP for fighting identity crime, making it easier for felons to escape prosecution.

"The first stop for many criminals out of jail is the Births, Deaths and Marriages registry to change their name, from which point they could obtain a legal passport under the new name and leave the country - all because the departments don't communicate," Tunnicliff said.

"Privacy issues can cripple investigations, such as when the RTA refuses to provide suspect photographs or will only give us a low-quality hard copy which dramatically reduces the effectiveness of facial recognition software."

"We need a burden of proof to convict a suspect of ID crime, which means there needs to be malicious intent behind the design of fraudulent templates; however most designers don't know where or what the images will be used for."

He said officials dealing with passports and licences lack the means to verify legitimate documents by cross-checking installed security measures.

"The interface the NSW highway police use in their cars to check driver licences does not include a photo, which means legitimate licences with someone else's photo remain undetectable," he said, adding it can be easy to duplicate driver licences in other states like Queensland, as they lack effective security measures.

According to Tunnicliff, the long-term profitability of ID theft has seen criminals stealing laminators and printers from transport offices on three occasions in NSW and four times in Victoria.

He said identity fraud costs the country "a very conservative" $1.2 billion every year - a fake Australian visa is worth upwards of $15,000 - and is the centre of crimes such as tax evasion, drug trafficking, people smuggling, and terrorism.

Investigations such as Operation Hickey, which reduced cheque fraud by 50 percent in the Sydney CDB, have registered 14,000 offences, 5000 persons of interest - of which 3000 cannot be identified - and have maintained a 100 percent conviction rate.

Tunnicliff said providing a photograph on the proposed national access card would assist the AFP in locating perpetrators.

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