Online banking fraud, money mules and tips on how to avoid their trap

Online banking fraud, money mules and tips on how to avoid their trap

European Money Mule week in November 2017 unearthed 1700 fraudulent transactions, 766 persons working as money mules and 59 people working as money mule recruiters.

Criminals in online banking fraud through phishing or hacking need middlemen to launder this money. Money mules are middlemen who do this.

Money mules receive funds into their bank accounts from criminals. They withdraw the money and send it to a designated account of the criminal. The account can be domestic or offshore and money is transferred using a wire transfer service. Usually the money transferred is minus the commission for the Money mule.

Australian law enforcement agencies worked in support of the European Money Mule week. Australian Federal Police (AFP), Australian Border Force (ABF), Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) and Australian Transaction Reports Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) participated in this exercise. They conducted intelligence gathering and analysis activities in the week 20-24 November 2017.

Sixty people at risk of being targeted by criminals for money mule activities were interviewed. Agencies gathered valuable information from Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania.

Across the globe 26 countries participated in this week-of-action.

Following tips may prove useful to avoid traps leading to online criminal activities.

– Avoid all offers and opportunities for making easy money.
– Verify address, phone number, email address and website before you proceed.
– Your confidential banking details should not be given to anyone.
– Be suspicious of anyone asking for personal details too.
– Think twice before you wire transfer funds, this cannot be recovered by banks.
– Any unauthorized transaction, including funds coming into your account should be immediately reported to the bank.

According to Neil Gaughan AFP National Manager, criminals use various channels like online chat rooms, social networking sites, post hoax websites, fake advertisements and fake profiles to recruit mules. Fake advertisements  claiming to be from customs brokers from major cities like Sydney are also published.  They tempt people with quick money and persuade people to take part in illegal activity.

Australia share Detector Dog expertise with China

Participating in the joint detector dog training exercise , Mr. Tan Jun, Director, Anti-smuggling Bureau of China Customs said we highly appreciate the ongoing support Australia Border Force provide to our National Dog Program. The joint program is going on for the past decade and China Customs is benefiting from Australian assistance in all aspects of the Detector Dog Program.

Australian Border Force (ABF) Detector Dog Program has one of the world’s best breeding and training capabilities. This is being used by China Customs. Customs instructors from China attended a two-week course at ABF’s state-of-the-art breeding and training facility. This program helped Chinese instructors to learn more about development and breeding of law enforcement detector dogs.

Australian Border Force (ABF) over the years has gifted a number of detector dogs to China Customs. This has helped Chinese customs to strengthen their existing detection capabilities.

At the ABF detector dog breeding and training facility, detector dog teams are given training and exposure to work in a wide range of challenging border environments. This include tasks such as searching international mail, luggage, air cargo, containerized sea cargo, commercial vessels, vehicles, aircraft, and travelling passengers. Detector dog teams has a major role in identifying and stopping importation of prohibited and restricted goods. Data from customs brokers from places like Sydney and Brisbane are also used in analytics to detect probable smuggling cases.

Along with x-ray and trace particle detection, detector dog squad play a significant complimentary role. The dog squad was credited with 2000 detection of illicit substances and prohibited items during 2016-17 financial year. With smugglers using new techniques to overcome x-rays and trace particle detection, detector dogs play a very significant role in controlling smuggling.

Border security agencies across the world has to face novel techniques and methods used by smugglers. Smugglers are also expanding capabilities by becoming part of international crime syndicates. This pose a new set of challenges in protecting land and maritime borders from illegal activities. Well trained dog squads in new detection techniques  play a very important complimentary role here.

International agencies unite against Darknet marketplace

International agencies unite against Darknet marketplace

In a global week of action, law enforcement agencies from all over the world have come together to fight against darknet sites. Those who joint hands in this program are agencies from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, New Zealand, France, Finland and the Netherlands.

A darknet market is a commercial website and function primarily as black market for illegal goods and transaction.

They sell or broker transactions involving drugs, cyber-arms, weapons, counterfeit currency, stolen credit card details, forged documents, unlicensed pharmaceuticals, steroids, and other illicit goods as well as the sale of legal products.

While a great many products are sold, drugs dominate the numbers of listings, with the drugs including cannabis, MDMA, modafinil, LSD, cocaine, and designer drugs. Since these sites are into purely illegal activites  involvement of any Sydney based customs brokers is ruled out.

In order to develop a more unified global law enforcement response to the growing use of Darknet sites the ‘Darknet Period of Action’ was initiated. Agencies involved in this from Australia were Australian Federal Police (AFP), Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), Australian Border Force (ABF) and state and territory police services.

Operations were initiated across the country resulting in 11 search warrants resulting in four arrests and six summons. Search warrants resulted in the seizure of MDMA, steroids, cannabis, opium, cocaine and methylamphetamine.

Throughout the world illegal drugs continue to be the most common item purchased and sold on the Darknet. At the same time law enforcement agencies around the world have also found a wide range of illicit materials such as weapons, fake identities and prescription drugs, as well as illegal services such as money laundering being offered for sale.

Ian McCartney, National Manager Organised Crime and Cyber, said that the belief that the Darknet is an anonymous part of the internet is not correct. It is not an offence to access such sites. However one has to keep in mind that the purchase and importation of illicit goods and services from these sites is a punishable offence.


Tobacco Strike Team inflicts major blow to illicit cigarette trade

An organised crime syndicate allegedly responsible for the illegal importation of more than 30 million cigarettes during 2015 was dismantled by Tobacco Strike Team. The Australian Border Force (ABF) has a dedicated task force named Tobacco Strike Team to exclusively deal with illegal import of tobacco to Australia.

In this connection two men were arrested in Sydney. They were  charged with smuggling offences under the Customs Act 1901. Law enforcement agencies have not given out name of any Sydney custom broker in this case.

Controlling tobacco smuggling using modern means of communication and equipment is one of the ABF’s key operational priorities, said ABF Acting Assistant Commissioner, Investigations, Anthony Seebach.

The government through Tobacco Strike Team is determined to reduce the availability of illicit tobacco in Australia. This in turn will reduce the harm posed to the community through the availability of cheap tobacco.

On the basis of 24 warrants executed in Sydney and Melbourne, ABF gathered substantial evidence on the alleged smuggling of ‘Spoonbill’ branded cigarettes into Australia. The tobacco smuggling syndicate has been grossly under-declaring the volume of cigarettes imported and cigarettes were imported in plain packaging.

For the first two months of 2015, ABF allege, the cartel has evaded tax of about $15 million. For this scale of evasion the maximum penalty can be 10 years’ imprisonment and/or up to five times the amount of duty evaded.

According to Assistant Commissioner Seebach, Australian tax rates on cigarettes are amongst the highest in the world. This makes smuggling of tobacco more profitable in Australia than in any other part of the world. This has attracted transnational crime groups to come to Australian illicit tobacco market.

These criminal organisations are well networked, well-funded and highly organised. Though Tobacco Strike Team is doing a good job in collaboration with other law enforcement partners they have a very tough task to perform.

Nine million illicit cigarettes seized from Greenvale man

Following a 12-month joint agency investigation and eight search warrants in Melbourne, nine million illicit cigarettes were seized. This also led to the arrest of a Greenvale man who was charged for this offence.

The illicit activity is reported to have generated cash and assets spread over various location across Melbourne suburbs. This include bank accounts and nine properties located in various Melbourne suburbs. The law enforcement agency, AFP’s Criminal Asset Confiscation has restraint $8.35 million worth of assets.

A team involving different agencies began investigation when the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) began investigating suspicious financial activities of businesses associated with the man. Along with this AUSTRAC financial intelligence also identified large suspicious money movements.

On the basis of the investigation conducted, Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers allege that the man was involved in the importation of illicit tobacco products. This illegal activity resulted in avoiding duty to the tune of $5 million and the man is also accused for dealing in the proceeds of crime.

Seized material by Australian Border Force (ABF) officers include nine million cigarettes and 44.5kg of molasses tobacco imported into Melbourne. The importer had declared the consignment as printer and mobile phone accessories. These items which came via air cargo avoided payment of $5 million dollars’ worth of duties. Information of any Sydney custom broker in connection is not available.

The investigation by the ACC, Victoria Police, AUSTRAC and the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) was referred  AFP and AFP officers executed search warrants on residential properties and businesses in the suburbs of Greenvale, Beveridge, Tullamarine and Fawkner.

The charges levelled against the 40-year-old man arrested from Greenvale were dealing in the Proceeds of Crime, smuggling of tobacco products and general Dishonesty. The offences can attract a maximum penalty of 17 years imprisonment plus duty payable of $5 million.

Polaris Joint Waterfront Taskforce break illegal tobacco syndicate, thirteen charged


Polaris Joint Waterfront Taskforce investigations into importation of large amounts of illicit cigarettes and tobacco resulted in charging thirteen people in this connection. Illegal activities were carried out using corrupt industry officials on the Sydney waterfront and in the maritime supply chain.

Operation Minium started in August 2014 by   Taskforce. The team included Australian Federal Police, NSW Police Force, Australian Border Force, and the Australian Crime Commission.

Modus operandi the syndicate was to pay employees attached to customs brokerage companies and freight forwarding firms in the tens of thousands of dollars. This helped them to create false declarations and shipping documents to enable the importation of illicit cigarettes and tobacco. However  Polaris Joint Waterfront Taskforce has not disclosed names of any Sydney custom broker in this connection.

Using this channel the syndicate brought in nine million cigarettes from the United Arab Emirates to Port Botany and were seized by Polaris officers. This consignment is estimated to have a black market value of approximately $5.4 million. This illegal importation have avoided tobacco excise and Customs duties of about $4.77 million.

In this investigation Polaris officers worked closely with Dubai Customs officials from the United Arab Emirates. Police point out that the syndicate avoided $9.1 million in Customs duties in respect of 10 million cigarettes and 5.6 tonnes of tobacco illegally brought into the country. The investigation team have also seized $700,000.

Illegal cigarettes and tobacco brought in were collected by a local syndicate for distribution throughout Sydney. They were also into drug trade, approximately 270 grams of cocaine was seized during the investigation with a street value of around $184,000.

Officers attached to Polaris, the Australian Federal Police, NSW Police Force and Australian Border Force arrested twelve men and one woman from Sydney’s south and south-west. They also seized $400,000 cash, further cigarettes and documents.

According to Nick Bingham Polaris Waterfront Task Force Commander this operation has shut down a major syndicate involved in importing illicit cigarettes and tobacco goods into the country and distributing those goods.

Operation Aristotle unearth $ 8.5 million worth of ill gotten assets


A successful multi agency investigation named Operation Aristotle resulted in the restraint of $8.5 million worth of assets alleged to have been derived from the proceeds of crime. Assets included bank accounts, a 2014 Ferrari and six properties in the Melbourne suburbs of Balwyn, Lalor, Epping, Preston and Tarneit.

The multi agency investigation team included Australian Federal Police (AFP), the Australian Border Force (ABF) the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) and Australia Post. Police have also seized a number of luxury items, including a 2015 Range Rover, multiple expensive watches and jewellery, and $180, 000 in cash. Three men were charged for their involvement in fraud scheme which defrauded individuals and government agencies. Since the nature of business did not involve any imports, no Sydney customs broker is associated with this crime.

Investigation was initiated on the basis of information regarding the validity of National Police Check (NPC) certificates. It was found that NPC certificates were falsified and identified a 34-year-old Balwyn man, and a 37-year-old Epping man as responsible for the fraud.

In a joint operation AFP, ABF and ASQA executed thirty search warrants in Melbourne suburbs of Balwyn, Epping, Reservoir, Footscray, Tarneit, Bentleigh East, Hoppers Crossing, Airport West, Thomastown, Whittlesthea, and the city. End result was the arrest of the two co-directors, along with a 42-year-old Tarneit man. These three are charged for cheating international and domestic students. Creating fraudulent documents, students were enrolled for training and later failed to provide appropriate education.

According to rough estimates, the two providers have charged over $9 million in fees from international students. They have also fraudulently claimed approximately $2 million in government funding.

The 34-year-old Balwyn man and the 37-year-old Epping man were charged for conspiring to dishonestly obtain a gain from the Commonwealth of Australia, Conspire to dishonestly influence an officer of the Australian Skills Quality Authority in the exercise of their official duties. Provide false documents, dishonestly falsifying a document and dealing with proceeds of crime worth more than $100,000.

The 42-year-old Tarneit man is charged for dishonestly obtain a gain from the Commonwealth of Australia, conspire to dishonestly influence an officer, two counts of providing false documents and dealing with proceeds of crime worth more than $100,000.

Worldwide operation against fake and illegal medicines purchased from internet


Australian agencies took part in an international crackdown on fake and illegal medicines purchased over the internet. This was joint action coordinated between various organisations across the glob. Australian agencies that participated included Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS), the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA)

Every year, Interpol and World Customs Organisation bring together customs, health regulators, national police and private sector agencies from over 100 countries in Operation Pangea. Aim of this exercise is to disrupt the organised crime networks behind the online trade of fake and illicit medicines. In Australia the same was organised in the international mail and air cargo environments in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.

As a result 80 packages were seized in Australia. Packages contained counterfeit erectile dysfunction products and unregistered domestic pet medications. ACBPS A/g Deputy Commander Strategic Border Command, Erin Dale warned consumers to be careful about online purchases. Consumers need to be careful when purchasing therapeutic goods online. It can be illegal and dangerous. This can also be dangerous for the health of buyers, their children and their pets.

According to Professor John Skerritt, head of TGA, consumers need to be aware of the risks of buying medicines online from unknown sources. The medicines may be cheaper, but these products may be counterfeit. Most of the website does not require a prescription for a medicine which is required elsewhere. Not only quality is not guaranteed the products may contain dangerous substances.

APVMA CEO Kareena Arthy explained the risks of illicit medicines on pets. Websites sell pet medicines which have not been scientifically assessed by the APVMA. This can cause serious suffering and harm to their pets. It has to be noted that all agricultural and veterinary chemical products registered in Australia have the words APVMA or NRA followed by a registration number printed on the label. By searching the APVMA chemicals database people can check the registration number and other details.

Eighteen arrested in 12 month Polaris operation


Eighteen men, involved in an organised crime syndicate were arrested and charged with more than 80 offences. This was the end result of a  12 month long Polaris waterfront task force operation.

Investigation was initiated on the alleged criminal activities of an individual who worked on the Port Botany waterfront. This was further widened to a number of associated persons involved in drug trafficking, weapon possession and supply and drug cultivation.

On the basis of the investigation 20 search warrants have been executed at locations across Sydney and the NSW south coast. This culminated in the arrests of 18 persons who will face a total of 81 charges. Investigation also included three search warrants at the homes of three suspects and received evidence in relation to drug trafficking and importation.

According to Nick Bingham, Polaris Taskforce commander Detective Superintendent the operation’s outcomes brings out  the success of the Polaris waterfront taskforce. This also shows effective the cooperation between agencies and its ability to control organised crime syndicates within Australia and overseas.

Detective Superintendent Bingham said that from one small piece of information this investigation expanded to a wider area. The investigation team was able to make dozens of charges and seize weapons, drugs and cash. He appealed to the community, especially those working at waterfront facilities.

As result of this exercise 18 persons were charged with 81 offences, seized  73kg of prohibited drugs, 31kg of precursors and 150 cannabis plants. It also resulted in the aeizure of 14,600 cigarettes, seizure of $893,139 cash believed to be the proceeds of crime and seizure of 22 firearms and in excess of 3000 rounds of ammunition. Polaris Taskforce has not disclosed name of any Sydney customs broker in this case.

The men arrested were charged with offences relate to the supply, possession and manufacture of prohibited drugs and precursors. This included possession of instructions and apparatus for the manufacture of prohibited drugs, possession of unregistered or prohibited firearms supply of firearm, possessions of ammunition without authority, possession of stolen goods, possession of property from proceeds of crime, possession of explosives, directing activities of a criminal group, participate in a criminal group and contribute to criminal activity, recklessly deal with proceeds of crime and hindering an investigation.

One tonne sea cucumbers returned to reef from illegal foreign boats


Seven illegal foreign fishing boats from Papua New Guinea were apprehended by a joint agency operation targeting illegal foreign fishing in the Torres Strait. This resulted in the return of almost one tonne of live sea cucumbers to Warrior Reef.

Considered a delicacy in most cultures in East and South East Asia, Sea cucumbers (also known as bech de mer) are highly regarded for their perceived health benefits. The operation was jointly conducted by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS), Royal Australian Navy, and the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA).

The illegal vessels were located by HMAS Wollongong and a Customs and Border Protection helicopter and were intercepted on Friday (22 November 2013), and Saturday (23 November 2013) on the Warrior Reef, in the Torres Strait.

Operating under the control of Border Protection Command, HMAS Wollongong, boarded four of the vessels on Friday and seized approximately 200 kilograms of live sea cucumbers, along with other catch, which included three giant clams. They also recovered live sea cucumber, believed to be around 200 kilograms.  No Sydney customs broker was involved in this operation.

Following this, HMAS Wollongong  boarded a further three vessels. Here also the officers seized over 200 kilograms of live sea cucumbers. Along with this, there was one large live sea turtle. It is also reported that an estimated 350 kilograms of sea cucumbers was also thrown overboard by the foreign fishers.

During the course of this operation seven vessels and 60 crew members were detained and transferred to the custody of Australian Customs Vessel Holdfast Bay. Crew were transferred to Papua New Guinea (PNG) authorities in Daru, PNG. The future of the seven vessels will on the basis of the outcome of prosecutions under PNG law. As per the standard procedures the seized sea cucumbers and live sea turtle were all returned to the reef.