Organized crime gangs with links to Britain and Sri Lanka are fuelling a fresh wave of identity fraud in Victoria, with Melbourne's inner city firming as the latest frontier in card skimming. As police accuse banks of putting their own reputations before their customers' welfare, Herald Sun Investigations found.
A secret national taskforce has broken a $100 million global Eftpos skimming syndicate with 56 arrests, including two individuals from Britain and two from Canada.
At least seven ATMs and two Eftpos machines have been skimmed in Melbourne in recent months, with crime gangs increasingly hitting the inner city.
Global crime syndicates committing large-scale identity fraud around Australia may have links with Sri Lankan terrorists.
Victoria Police Detective Senior Sergeant Peter Endler said skimming gangs typically hit Melbourne's outer suburbs before flying home, but an active Victoria Police investigation involves an unknown group hitting machines in the city.
Last year, the Victoria Police fraud and extortion squad brought down a British-linked Eftpos skimming syndicate preying on Melbourne's Sri Lankan community.
Police charged six people - five of them Sri Lankan - under Operation Around with conspiracy to defraud and associated crimes, court records show.
The operation was linked to the nationwide Taskforce Chamonix. The ringleader, a Sri Lankan who flew to Melbourne via Sydney from his home in Britain, would offer Sri Lankan students working at Melbourne service stations up to $30,000 for access to their stores' Eftpos handsets.
The syndicate would install skimming technology in the machines and spy cameras overhead to capture each customer's PIN.
Now serving at least four years' jail, the ringleader was also made to pay Westpac, ANZ and the Commonwealth Bank $70,000 in compensation.
Sri Lanka warned Australia about card skimming at least four years ago. Concerns intensified that stolen funds could be supporting Tamil Tigers terrorists after the arrest of several Tamils over Eftpos fraud in Western Australia.
Police have not said Australian money has ended up with Tamil terrorists, but similar skimming schemes in Canada and Britain have given funds to the group.
Australian Crime Commission figures show 63,000 fake debit card transactions worth $24.5 million were recorded in Australia in 2009, up 50 per cent in three years.
Queensland Det-Supt Brian Hay accused banks of failing to properly report credit card fraud to authorities for fear of damaging their brands.