Police warnings over buying drugs, fake IDs on 'dark net'



A HUNTER resident who bought a fake ID on an internet black market has described how he did it, prompting police to warn against trading on sinister underground websites.

Drugs, weapons, identities, child porn, passports, counterfeit money and other contraband can be bought in a place called the ‘‘dark net’’ or ‘‘deep web’’, which uses encryption software in an effort to prevent users from being traced.

The resident told the Newcastle Herald he bought a fake proof-of-age card for a 16-year-old family member. 

The card would allow the teen to buy alcohol and visit clubs and pubs.

He bought the card for $140 from an online market. A different seller on the same site offered a NSW driver’s licence for $385.86.

The card arrived within three days, the resident said.

It  was a replica of a NSW Photo Card, which Roads and Maritime Services issues for ‘‘people who do not hold a NSW driver’s licence, or other form of photo identification’’.

When asked about the fake cards,  NSW Police and Australian Federal Police warned against trading on the dark net, saying offenders faced prosecution.

Police were running covert operations to catch offenders, they said.

NSW Police Fraud and Cybercrime Squad acting commander Detective Inspector Matt Craft said police had strategies to combat  trading on the ‘‘dark net’’.

‘‘We have a whole unit which specifically investigates all matters cybercrime related,’’ he said.

A  federal police spokeswoman said ‘‘online crime has evolved in an environment that offers a degree of anonymity and global reach across jurisdictions’’.

Officers were ‘‘actively involved in many types of dark-web forums in a covert capacity’’.

‘‘Offenders may never know who they are actively engaging or selling products to.’’

The resident found the marketplace through a link on the popular website Reddit.

He was able to access the market through an app, which promotes itself as a ‘‘Tor-powered web browser that lets you access the internet privately and anonymously’’. Tor is ‘‘free software for enabling online anonymity and censorship resistance’’. 

 Federal police warned people ‘‘engaging in illegal activity through an online marketplace that their identity will not always remain anonymous and, when caught, they will be prosecuted’’.

‘‘Although online stores are commonly based overseas, Australian importers of illegal goods are within the reach of AFP.

‘‘While it is not an offence to access these websites, it is an offence to import or attempt to import illegal items into Australia from online sites,’’ federal police said.

Electronic Frontiers Australia executive officer Jon Lawrence said ‘‘everything you do online leaves some trace’’.

‘‘If law enforcement really wants to put the resources into tracking you down, the likelihood is they probably will find you or someone close to you,’’ Mr Lawrence said.

 Police had prosecuted dark-web activity, having managed to ‘‘get hold of one person and turn them against other people involved’’, he said.

A number of underground black marketplaces emerged following the widely publicised demise last year of the Silk Road online black market, known for trading illegal drugs.

Participants trade with Bitcoins – a digital currency that uses cryptography for the transfer of money.

The resident bought the fake ID late last year, but the product he bought had since been removed from the marketplace.

However, another seller was offering Australian driver’s licences from overseas for $386.

Detective Inspector Craft warned people against buying fake IDs.

‘‘They may think they’re getting a quality product, but if law enforcement becomes involved we’ll be able to pick those fakes,’’  he said.

‘‘They may look similar, but generally the identification is of a very poor standard.’’

Courts can impose a maximum fine of $2200 for offenders caught using fake IDs and police can issue on-the-spot fines of $220.  P-platers face a six-month extension to provisional driver licences, if convicted of a fake ID offence. People who forge IDs face fines of up to $5500.

The online black markets list drugs for sale such as steroids, amphetamines, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, psychedelics, marijuana and pharmaceuticals.

The resident said drugs could be bought on the site from inside Australia and delivered through the mail.

‘‘You can order ounces of heroin to your door,’’ he said.  ‘‘One vial of steroids can be bought for $115, cheaper than the street value of $200.’’

Buying on the sites from sources within Australia was considered less risky than buying from overseas because ‘‘then it goes through Customs’’, the resident said.

Detective Inspector Craft said police targeted buyers and sellers.

‘‘These are offences which carry terms of imprisonment,’’ he said, and police were ‘‘always happy to receive information’’ about these matters.

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