Four police sources have given four different reasons for not following up a case of alleged electronic fraud.
A gang of New Zealanders were detected allegedly setting up a dummy website and milking payments and credit card details from users who thought they were subscribing to a pornographic site (see Porn scam escapes police attention).
Asked about the case at the recent Wellington e-crime forum, Police Commissioner Rob Robinson told Computerworld there were probably overseas elements to the offence and this would make it difficult to investigate.
Reminded that the scam was allegedly committed by a New Zealander, using New Zealand ISP 2day Internet, Robinson then disclaimed a detailed knowledge of the case.
According to a police e-crime expert, consulted by police spokesman Jon Neilson last week, the ruling factor in establishing police priorities is the existing investigation load and the nature of the investigation of which the alleged electronic crime forms a part. If electronic data is fraudulently used in pursuance of a homicide, Neilson says, then it would stand at a higher priority than a simple case of fraud. But priority would also depend on what other investigations were on the police plate. “If there were no homicides around at the time, then you might get a clear run at [investigating the electronic fraud case],” he says.
According to the original police spokesman on the case, detective superintendent Bill Bishop, a reason for the low priority was that “there is very little sympathy for victims of such a crime where they’ve given their credit card details to a porn site”.
When Computerworld in a comment piece questioned whether priorities should be set on grounds of the degree of “public sympathy” with the victim (see Police priority puzzles), national policing development manager Murray Sim responded by referring to “strategic” priorities. He indicated that electronic crime, as an “emerging” category, might suffer from a need to “continue focusing on current priorities”.