Favourite spot for thieves and deceivers

By Khiara Elliott

Data released by the Crime Statistics Agency Victoria shows that the top crimes in the CBD during 2016 were theft related.

“Obtaining benefit by deception” was the top crime in postcode 3000, with 3309 cases being reported over the last year. This was closely followed by “theft other”, with a total of 3172 reports made.

Melbourne East Police Station’s Sen-Sgt Adam Tanner explained the terms and how the crimes usually occur in the CBD.

“Obtaining benefit by deception is largely a type of fraud,” he said. “The use of stolen credit cards is an example. When stolen credits are used to purchase goods, that’s obtaining benefit by deception.”

According to Sen-Sgt Tanner, theft other means the theft of someone’s personal property that does not include an act of violence.

“For example, you might use your laptop at the library, move away from your desk and have your laptop taken. That’s an example of theft other,” he said.

Sen-Sgt Tanner said the crimes were usually linked to each other, beginning with an act such as the stealing of a handbag, and resulting in a case of obtaining benefit by deception once the thief has gone through the purse and begun using the victim’s credit cards.

“The motivation for any thief is obviously money, so they’ll use these cards to purchase items of high value and then resell them, or they’ll try and withdraw cash,” he said.

An unfortunate, yet perfect, example of theft other turning into obtaining benefit by deception happened to 27-year-old Amy Li after she used “secured” lockers at Flinders St Station.

Ms Li was out with friends and decided to place her backpack, which held her iPad, inside the locker to avoid lugging the heavy bag around with her.

When she returned a few hours later, Ms Li found that, despite her locker still being locked, her bag was open and her iPad had been taken.

A few months later, Ms Li received a phone call from a stranger claiming to have purchased her iPad on classified website Gumtree.

The woman, who claimed to be a single mother on a disability pension was having trouble using the iPad as Ms Li had reported it as stolen and Apple had taken it offline.

As the iPad was still linked to Ms Li’s Apple account, the woman began asking Ms Li for her account log in details so that she could log on and change the settings.

However this was a huge red flag for Ms Li who felt uneasy about allowing a stranger access to her private account information that included personal and financial details.

Instead Ms Li unlocked the device through Apple. She has not heard from the woman since.

“Particularly with our electronic devices such as mobile phones and iPads, so much personal information is contained in them,” Sen-Sgt Tanner said.

“If people can gain access to this information, it can lead to further offences such as identity theft which is obviously a major concern.”

Sen-Sgt Tanner said that there would be a continued focus on theft other crimes in the CBD.

“It’s about making sure people are aware of their property,” he said.

“We want people to make sure their valuables are secured and that they know where their valuables are at all times, even when they’re just walking down the street.”

And if you have the same misfortune as Ms Li, Sen-Sgt Tanner recommends you remain proactive.

“We encourage anyone who has property stolen, particularly mobile phones and credit cards to disable their accounts or devices as soon as they’re aware of it. That defuses the situation and prevents criminals furthering that crime,” he said.

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