'Cunning' burglars photograph credit cards

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 13:00 30/05/2014

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Police are warning Nelson homeowners about a cunning new burglary operation that targets people's identities and credit cards.

Nelson Bays area commander Inspector Steve Greally said six victims had come forward in the past few days to report what appeared to be an elaborate method of home break-ins, in which nothing had been taken except photographs - of their credit cards.

Greally said the method used by the burglars was "very cunning", and heightened the vulnerability of the victims.

In many cases, they did not know that their homes had been broken into, he said. However, some had become suspicious because of telltale signs that someone had been in the house.

The thieves rifle through victims' handbags and wallets and photograph their credit cards, then use the stolen details to buy items online.

In one case, they bought a domestic return airfare from Nelson. Greally said that because people could check in for flights using self-service kiosks, it was easy to use a fictitious name with a ticket that had been bought online.

Details of what else had been bought using the stolen credit card details were still being collated.

Greally said there were likely to be many more victims who were not yet aware that their homes had been targeted. "It's the first I've heard of this sort of crime happening here."

He said police were closing in on several suspects, but in the meantime, he urged people to be vigilant, to not leave bags and wallets lying around at home, and to notify their bank immediately if items were bought using their credit cards by anyone other than themselves.

Greally said the recent spate of break-ins had happened in Richmond, Stoke and Nelson, and was not limited to any particular neighbourhood.

The only common factor was that the burglars appeared to have targeted homes with ranchslider doors, which they had found a way to easily remove, then put back in place.

"They've got in, rifled around but taken nothing except photos."

Greally said the victims had often found their bags and wallets where they had left them, in full view, with credit cards and cash still intact.

Their suspicions had been raised by evidence of someone having been in the house, such as drawers left open and evidently having been searched.

"The burglars have taken photos of the credit cards, then used the details to buy items online. Because they're not unusual items, they're not being blocked by the banks, and not showing up until a month later, when the statement arrives," Greally said.

"If people think they have been burgled, they need to be proactive, even if it looks like nothing has been taken. They need to approach their bank and cancel their credit cards.

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"Don't for a second think there's been nothing stolen," he said. "Your ID has been."

- The Nelson Mail

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