Australian authorities sentenced a Canadian backpacker to pay a fine, along with restitution to the victim, for buying stolen credit card information on the dark web and using the data to book a holiday resort.
On May 22, the prosecution formally charged the 18-year-old Nathanial Meryk Bell with two counts of fraud, and one count each of attempted fraud and possessing equipment for the purpose of committing an offense. According to the court documents, the defendant used a 42-year-old New South Wales man’s credit card information, which Bell allegedly bought from the dark web, to book a holiday resort in Hastings Street, Noosa, Australia. However, when the victim noticed discrepancies on his credit card statement, he immediately notified his bank and the resort. Since the 42-year-old man discovered the suspicious activity on his statement in a timely manner, the resort staff were able to call the police when Bell and three of his friends arrived at the holiday place. When law enforcement authorities arrived on the scene, they detained both the 18-year-old and his friends. However, later on, they released the friends of the defendant and considered them as witnesses in the case.
Sunshine Coast District officer in charge Detective Senior Sergeant Daren Edwards stated that Bell purchased the credit card information on the dark web.
“We’re aware of some dark areas on the internet where offenders do advertise people’s identities, credit card details and the like and purchase them. Organized criminal groups are using that technology. We encourage people to be more vigilant,” Edwards said in a statement.
At the time, the Sunshine Coast police reminded the citizens of the area to be “extra vigilant” when they are checking their credit card statements. Edwards advised the public to keep a close eye on the transactions, and when they see any suspicious activity, immediately notify the police and the bank. The detective emphasized that the current case should be served as a warning to the people to keep their personal details safe. Edwards said that criminals are targeting victims with phishing attacks, including phones calls and emails, which could result in the loss of their financial data.
“Unfortunately we have a trusting population that does tend to give out a lot of information without having those checks and balances, and we’re seeing a bit of an increase in these types of frauds using that type of activity,” Edwards said. The detective added that there is a website called “Scamwatch”, which could be used to prevent and combat fraudulent activity.
After pleading guilty to credit card fraud, the Noosa Magistrates Court fined Bell on June 2 to $1,200 since he had no previous convictions. Acting magistrate Graham Hillan also ordered the 18-year-old to pay a restitution fee of $596. The Canadian backpacker has to pay the restitution in the course of one week, in order to get back his passport from Australian authorities. As Bell left the courthouse, he refused to comment on the case to the media.