Determination and tenacity aid police fraud investigation

As one of ANZ’s external fraud investigators, Katarina often find herself wrestling with some of the thornier issues – like identity theft and cybercrime – that dominate headlines.

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Not that she brags about what she does for a living: “I hate saying I'm a fraud investigator. I feel like it just sounds so pompous,” she laughs.

“Kat’s determination and skilled investigative work is typical of the work performed by the External Investigations team.”

No matter how much she plays down her job, Katarina’s role is increasingly important in a world in which fraud activities are a growing problem.

Australian Federal Police say Australians reported losses of more than $98 million to business email compromise attacks in the last year. There was an average loss of $64,000 per attack.

The seven person ANZ External Fraud team investigates high-value, complex fraud matters where the bank has suffered a loss. One of the youngest members of the team, Katarina is winning plaudits for how she carries out her work.

Her boss Michael – a former police officer and fraud investigator at one of the Big Four accounting firms – says Katarina’s determination and investigative work recently informed an Australian Federal Police case that led to the arrest of four members of an alleged cybercrime syndicate.

The AFP accuses the syndicate of money laundering $1.7 million in stolen cash from Australian and overseas victims following recent raids in Queensland, South Australia and Victoria. The matter is before the courts in Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide.

“Kat’s determination and skilled investigative work is typical of the work performed by the External Investigations team,” Michael says.

The External fraud team works closely with other ANZ investigators within Customer Protection such as the digital fraud, card, scam and identity theft teams.

“Other Customer Protection teams refer complex matters to us and we'll work those cases further,” Katarina says. “We'll pursue it with law enforcement and look for any links. It could be a syndicated case where, for example, a group of people are going around and stealing cards from people's mailboxes and committing identity theft.

“It might be more to do with cybercrime where people from overseas might be trying to infiltrate the Australian banking system by stealing information from the dark web.”

Katarina started at ANZ six years ago, initially working in the scams and identity fraud teams. She is now studying criminology at Griffith University.

Michael says Katarina’s industriousness came to the fore when she received a referral from a detection team to investigate an ANZ account with a suspect transaction of more than $100,000.

She used data stored on ANZ systems, open-source channels like social media and some lateral thinking to connect people and draw a picture of what she thought happened.

A Eureka moment came when she recognised on social media a person who she had identified during the course of her investigation – except the person appeared under a different name.

“I remember showing my boss Mike. And he was just like, ‘Yeah, that's her’.”

The Federal Police were immediately alerted and eventually the arrests were made. The AFP alleges the syndicate orchestrated more than 15 sophisticated cybercrime incidents between January 2020 and March 2023.

It is also alleged the group set up more than 180 bank accounts with stolen identities to help transfer cash out of Australia.

AFP investigators identified two Brisbane women, a Melbourne man and an Adelaide man who allegedly laundered the proceeds from the cyber fraud and were operating as a cybercrime syndicate with links to South Africa. About $1.1 million was allegedly laundered to bank accounts in South Africa.

Investigators seized fake passports, international driver licences, luxury handbags and digital devices. The group is accused of sourcing legitimate identity documents and altering the photographs and birth dates so Australian syndicate members could use them.

The syndicate allegedly undertook a range of cybercrime tactics, including business email compromise attacks, scams targeting users of Facebook Marketplace and fraudulent superannuation investments. Individual losses ranged from $2500 to nearly $500,000.

Michael says Katarina showed aptitude locating evidence and then connecting small details to the wider scheme. She used a methodical and organised approach to collect and analyse evidence and trawled through a mountain of information to draw her conclusions.

Katarina, who likes doing crosswords when relaxing, says her involvement was like solving a particularly tough puzzle.

“You just feel like you've cracked a code.”

And just like solving a tricky crossword puzzle on the weekend, her investigations involve a strong element of trusting her instincts.

“You should trust your gut instinct,” she says.

Marc Broome is Senior Manager of Complex Investigations with Customer Protection at ANZ

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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