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4528.0 - Personal Fraud, 2007 Quality Declaration 
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/06/2008   
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EXPLANATORY NOTES


INTRODUCTION

1 This publication presents results from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Personal Fraud Survey, conducted throughout Australia during July to December 2007 as part of the 2007-08 Multi-Purpose Household Survey (MPHS), a supplement to the monthly Labour Force Survey (LFS). This is the first time that data about personal fraud have been collected.

2 The Personal Fraud Survey collected information from individuals about their experience of selected personal frauds, and whether they incurred any financial loss, over a twelve month period from the date of interview. Detailed characteristics of the most recent incident of fraud were also collected. Of the 16,100 private dwellings selected in the Personal Fraud Survey, 89% responded, resulting in a final sample of 14,320 persons.

3 Further information about data collection is provided in paragraphs 8-9.


SCOPE

4 The scope of the LFS is restricted to people aged 15 years and over who were usual residents of private dwellings, except:

  • members of the permanent defence forces
  • certain diplomatic personnel of overseas governments, customarily excluded from census and estimated populations
  • overseas residents in Australia
  • members of non-Australian defence forces (and their dependants).

5 The 2007-08 MPHS also excluded:
  • people living in special dwellings (such as hotels, university residences, students at boarding schools, patients in hospitals, residents of homes (e.g. retirement homes, homes for persons with disabilities), and inmates of prisons)
  • people living in very remote parts of Australia.

6 The 2007-08 MPHS was conducted in both urban and rural areas in all states and territories, but excluded people living in very remote parts of Australia. The exclusion of these people is expected to have only a minor impact on any aggregate estimates that are produced for individual states and territories, except the Northern Territory where such people account for around 23% of the population.


COVERAGE

7 In the LFS, coverage rules are applied which aim to ensure that each person is associated with only one dwelling and hence has only one chance of selection in the survey. The publication Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0) contains information about survey design, sample redesign, scope, coverage and population benchmarks relevant to the monthly LFS, which also applies to the MPHS. It also contains definitions of demographic and labour force characteristics, and information about telephone interviewing relevant to both the monthly LFS and the MPHS.


DATA COLLECTION

MPHS

8 The MPHS is conducted as a supplement to the monthly Labour Force Survey (LFS). One eighth of the LFS sample is rotated out of the survey each month, called the 'outgoing rotation group'. One third of the dwellings in this outgoing rotation group are selected for the MPHS. In each of these dwellings, after the LFS has been fully completed for each person in scope and coverage, a person (usual resident) aged 15 years and over is selected at random (based on a computer algorithm) and asked the additional MPHS questions in a personal interview. Data are collected using Computer Assisted Interviewing (CAI), whereby responses are recorded directly onto an electronic questionnaire in a notebook computer generally during a telephone interview.


Personal Fraud

9 The usual MPHS sample is accumulated over a twelve month period (July 2007 to June 2008). However, the Personal Fraud sample was accumulated over only six months. Between July to December 2007 the usual MPHS sample answered all the MPHS questions, including the Personal Fraud module. In addition, another one-third of the outgoing rotation group were asked only the questions about Personal Fraud. In this way, the full-sized sample that would normally be accumulated over a twelve month period was collected in six months. Refer to paragraph 2 for the final sample size.


MEASURING PERSONAL FRAUD

10 As fraud is a complex phenomenon there may be situations where a scam incident involves the theft of a person's personal details, which are then subsequently used to commit a further fraudulent offence such as credit card fraud. The ABS Personal Fraud Survey was not designed to capture this level of complexity. The survey primarily focused on understanding the rate of prevalence of individual personal fraud types in Australia.

11 Due to the inherently deceptive nature of fraud and the fact that these types of offence can occur over a long period of time, it is possible that a survey respondent could have unknowingly been a victim of a fraud or scam during the reference period. The effects of some types of frauds are not detected until well after the event. For example, a person may not realise that a particular request or offer they have received is fraudulent, or they might not be aware that their credit card or personal details are being used without their permission.


EXPOSURE TO SCAMS

12 Scams operate by presenting a person with a deceptive story, request or other lure, which results in the person responding to the scam in some manner, such as by providing or verifying personal details or money to the scammer. As such, in this survey a person was considered to have been exposed to a scam if they had:
  • received an unsolicited invitation, request, notification or offer; and
  • read or viewed the material.

13 It was not sufficient for the person to have received a piece of correspondence which was simply unwanted. Notifications or invitations which were received via e-mail, but by-passed the person's In-box and were removed by a spam filter were excluded if the respondent did not open the message.


VICTIMISATION

Scams

14 For the purposes of this survey, people were considered to be a victim of a scam if they were not only exposed to a scam or fraudulent offer, but also responded to that scam by providing money, personal details or both, or by asking for more information.

15 Detailed information about the most recent episode of each identity fraud or scam was only sought from victims of that specific type of fraud, not from those who merely received a fraudulent offer or request but did not respond.


Identity fraud

16 The distinction between exposure and victimisation does not apply to identity theft or credit or bank card fraud - in these cases if a person simply became aware that these types of fraud had occurred, they were considered to be a victim, as they were not required to be exposed to a scam for victimisation to occur.

17 The survey sought to establish the number of 'episodes' of credit or bank card fraud or identity theft, that is, the number of times the respondent had their personal details stolen. The survey has not collected the number of individual transactions or cash withdrawals that occurred in each 'episode' before the breach was detected. For example, if a respondent's credit or bank card was stolen and was used to make five transactions before the card was cancelled, only the one episode of the card being stolen and used fraudulently was counted.


Victim counts

18 A person could have been a victim of one or more selected personal fraud types; where this was the case they were counted in each personal fraud type. For example a person may have been a victim of both an advance fee scam and a lottery scam. This person would be counted in both scam categories. A total count of victims for all personal frauds is also able to be derived, but victims are only counted once in the totals. Using the previous example, the total victim count would only count this person once even though two incident types occurred. Components therefore will not always add to the total victim counts in the publication.


MOST RECENT INCIDENT

19 Detailed characteristics (such as method of fraud, reporting of incidents, financial loss, time lost or behaviour changes) of each type of fraud were collected only for the most recent incident of that fraud type. The survey is not able to provide detailed information about the characteristics of all fraud type incidents that survey respondents may have experienced during the reference period. Therefore data for these characteristics cannot be combined to form a total scam or identity fraud count. Only victim counts can be combined across categories.


TOTAL FINANCIAL LOSS

20 For each different type of personal fraud, victims were asked to report the amount of money they lost in the most recent incident. At the end of the survey, those who reported experiencing more than one victimisation for a type of identity fraud, or reported responding to more than one invitation, request, notification or offer for a type of scam, were also asked to report the total amount of money lost to any other fraud incidents not already mentioned. These amounts were added together to obtain a total financial loss from personal fraud.

21 Where mean, median and total financial losses are reported in this publication, the total financial loss is used.


INCOME LESS THAN ZERO

22 Some persons or households reported negative income in the survey. This is possible if they incur losses in their unincorporated business or have negative returns from their investments. Studies of income and expenditure from the Household Expenditure Survey, Australia (cat. no. 6530.0) have shown that such households in the bottom income decile and with negative gross incomes tend to have expenditure levels that are comparable with those of households with higher income levels (and slightly above the average expenditures recorded for the fifth decile), indicating that these households have access to economic resources, such as wealth, or that the instance of low or negative income is temporary, perhaps reflecting business or investment start-up. In this survey, persons or households reporting negative income have been grouped in the lowest weekly income ranges ($0-$499).


EQUIVALISED HOUSEHOLD INCOME

23 Equivalence scales are used to adjust the actual incomes of households in a way that enables the analysis of the relative wellbeing of people living in households of different size and composition. For example, it would be expected that a household comprising two people would normally need more income than a lone person household if all the people in the two households are to enjoy the same material standards of living. Adopting a per capita analysis would address one aspect of household size difference, but would address neither compositional difference (i.e. the number of adults compared with the number of children) nor the economies derived from living together.

24 When household income is adjusted according to an equivalence scale, the equivalised income can be viewed as an indicator of the economic resources available to a standardised household. For a lone person household, it is equal to income received. For a household comprising more than one person, equivalised income is an indicator of the household income that would be required by a lone person household in order to enjoy the same level of economic wellbeing as the household in question.

25 The equivalence scale used in this publication was developed for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and is referred to as the "modified OECD" equivalence scale. It is widely accepted among Australian analysts of income distribution.

26 The scale allocates 1.0 point for the first adult (aged 15 years and over) in a household; 0.5 for each additional adult; and 0.3 for each child. Equivalised household income is derived by dividing total household income by the sum of the equivalence points allocated to household members. For example, if a household received combined gross income of $2,100 per week and comprised two adults and two children (combined household equivalence points of 2.1), the equivalised gross household income would be calculated as $1,000 per week.

27 For more information on the use of equivalence scales, see Household Income and Income Distribution, Australia, 2005-06 (cat. no. 6523.0).


RELIABILITY OF ESTIMATES

28 The estimates provided in this publication are subject to sampling and non-sampling error.


Sampling error

29 Sampling error is the difference between the published estimates, derived from a sample of persons, and the value that would have been produced if all persons in scope of the survey had been included. For more information refer to the Technical Note.


Non-sampling error

30 Non-sampling error may occur in any collection, whether it is based on a sample or a full count such as a census. Sources of non-sampling error included non-response, errors in reporting by respondents or recording of answers by interviewers, and errors in coding and processing data. Every effort is made to reduce the non-sampling error to a minimum by careful design of questionnaires, intensive training and supervision of interviewers and effective processing procedures.


IMPUTATION FOR NON-RESPONSE

31 Certain data items such as estimates of income had significant non-response for the 2007-08 MPHS. The ABS has not applied any imputation methodology for estimation of values for non-responses.


COMPARABILITY WITH MONTHLY LFS STATISTICS

32 Due to differences in the scope and sample size of the MPHS and that of the LFS, the estimation procedure may lead to some small variations between labour force estimates from this survey and those from the LFS.


2007-2008 MPHS OUTPUTS

33 The MPHS is designed to collect statistics for a number of small, self-contained topics. These include both labour topics and other social and economic topics. The topics collected in 2007-08 were:
  • Education
  • Household Use of Information Technology
  • Attitudes to the Environment
  • Personal Fraud
  • Income

34 The MPHS also collects other socio-demographic information such as educational attainment, labour force status and personal and household income.

35 Data for other MPHS topics collected in 2007-08 will be released in separate publications. In addition, data from the 2007-08 MPHS will be released as an expanded Confidentialised Unit Record File (CURF) in 2009.


CONFIDENTIALISED UNIT RECORD FILE

36 Confidentialised Unit Record Files (CURF) release confidentialised microdata from surveys, thereby facilitating interrogation and analysis of data. For all MPHS topics covered in the 2007-08 survey, an expanded CURF will be available in 2009. For more information on expanded CURFs refer to ABS information paper Multi-Purpose Household Survey, Expanded Confidentialised Unit Record File, Technical Manual (cat. no. 4100.0).


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

37 ABS publications draw extensively on information provided freely by individuals, businesses, governments and other organisations. Their continued cooperation is very much appreciated. Without it, the wide range of statistics published by the ABS would not be available. Information received by the ABS is treated in strict confidence as required by the Census and Statistics Act 1905.


RELATED PUBLICATIONS

38 Other ABS publications that may be of interest are shown below, and are available at <www.abs.gov.au>:
39 Non-ABS sources which may be of interest can be accessed through the National Centre for Crime and Justice Statistics theme page on the ABS web site <www.abs.gov.au> found under the headings "Themes", "People", then "Crime and Justice".

40 Information about current publications and other products released by the ABS is available from the statistics page on the ABS website <www.abs.gov.au>. The ABS also issues a daily Release Advice on the website which details products to be released in the week ahead.


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