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1301.0 - Yearbook Chapter, 2009–10  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 04/06/2010   
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FEATURE ARTICLE: PERSONAL FRAUD

Personal fraud has been recognised as a crime type that is a growing threat to the community, as a result of the rapid expansion and availability of internet technology and the increase in electronic storage, transmission and sharing of data. Due to the wide range of commercial and government agencies with a remit to respond to various types of personal frauds and scams, it can be difficult to understand the prevalence of such incidents in the general community using available recorded crime statistics or other administrative data sources. A Personal Fraud Survey of people aged 15 years and over was conducted by the ABS during the period July to December 2007. The survey provides a national benchmark measure of the extent to which Australians were exposed to a range of personal frauds, whether they became a victim of a selected range of personal frauds and whether they incurred any financial loss as a result of being victimised.

The survey measured three key elements of personal fraud:

  • people's exposure to a range of selected scams;
  • whether a person was a victim of either identity fraud or a range of selected scams; and
  • any financial losses incurred by victims of personal fraud during the reference period.

Diagram S13.1 shows experience of selected personal frauds for Australians aged 15 years or more in the 12 months prior to the survey.


VICTIMS OF PERSONAL FRAUD

Personal Fraud includes identity fraud and a range of selected scams. Just over 800,000 Australians aged 15 years and over were victims of at least one incident of personal fraud in the 12 months prior to interview. This equated to a victimisation rate for personal fraud of 5% of the population aged 15 years and over.

Over half of these victims (453,100) incurred a financial loss during this period, resulting in a combined loss of almost one billion dollars ($977 million) as a result of personal fraud.


Identity fraud

Identity fraud comprises bank or credit card fraud and identity theft. Theft of identity includes the fraudulent use of personal details such as a drivers licence or tax file number, without permission, or illegally appropriating another person's identity for unauthorised gain.

In the 12 months prior to the survey, 3% or nearly half a million (499,500) people in Australia were victims of identity fraud. Just over half (54%) of these victims were male, while 46% were female.

The majority (383,300 or 77%) of identity fraud victims were a victim of credit or bank card fraud. This equated to a victimisation rate of 2.4% of the population aged 15 years and over. These victims experienced at least one unauthorised, fraudulent transaction of their cards or account details. Victims of identity theft accounted for 0.8% of the population aged 15 years or over, or 124,000 victims. Note, victims of identity fraud may have experienced more than one incident of credit/bank card or identity theft, therefore these incidents may not add to the total.

All victims of credit/bank card fraud reported that they incurred a financial loss. In contrast, 16% of victims reported a financial loss as a result of the most recent incident of identity theft. Over three quarters (76%) of victims of credit/bank card fraud reported the most recent incident to a law enforcement agency, financial institution or other formal entity, while just over half (57%) of identity theft victims reported their most recent incident.


Scams

Scams aim to elicit personal information and/or obtain a financial benefit by deceptive means such as through an invitation, request, notification or offer. The Personal Fraud Survey included the following scams: lotteries, pyramid schemes, phishing and related scams, financial advice, chain letters and advance fee fraud.

S13.1 EXPERIENCE OF SELECTED PERSONAL FRAUDS(a)




Exposure to scams

Over 5.8 million Australians were exposed to a range of selected scams in the 12 months prior to the survey. This involved people receiving and viewing or reading an unsolicited invitation, request, notification or offer, designed to obtain their personal information or money or otherwise obtain a financial benefit by deceptive means.

Victims of scams

A successful scam requires an engagement or response from a person to an unsolicited invitation, request, notification or offer. Of those who had been exposed to a fraudulent invitation or request, 329,000 people (6%) became victims by responding to the scam by supplying personal information, money or both, or seeking more information. This equated to a victimisation rate of 2% of the population aged 15 years and over.

Lotteries accounted for 84,100 victims, representing a victimisation rate of 0.5% of the population aged 15 years and over. This was followed by pyramid schemes (70,900 victims or 0.4%) and phishing and related scams (57,800 victims or 0.4%). Note a person may have been a victim of more than one type of scam.


FURTHER INFORMATION

Further information on the Personal Fraud Survey and the statistics obtained therein, can be obtained from ABS Personal Fraud, Australia, 2007 (4528.0).


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