MEASURING PERSONAL FRAUD
The objective of a fraud is to gain advantage over a victim by means of deception, be that advantage of a financial or other nature. Fraudulent activities can be undertaken in various different ways and therefore they can be difficult to identify. This makes measuring the occurrence of these incidents within the community a complex task.
The accuracy of personal fraud statistics can be affected by a range of factors. Administrative by-product data for personal fraud is complicated due to the lack of a single centralised body. This is made even more difficult by the fact that not everyone who is a victim of fraud will become aware of it or report it. Data collected using household surveys also has limitations, such as recall difficulties and willingness to reveal certain things.
For the Personal Fraud Survey there are various factors that may impact on the results.
- The longer the elapsed time period, the less likely it is that an incident will be recalled accurately. Given this issue, those surveyed during the survey reference period (June 2010 to July 2011) were asked to recall incidents that occurred only in the 12 months prior to the date of their interview, or five years in the case of identity theft.
- Sometimes people may have difficulty in judging whether some of their experiences have been legitimate or fraudulent.
- As personal fraud activities aim to deceive victims, some people may never discover frauds that have been perpetrated against them, or may discover such events long after they have taken place.
- Victims may not be willing to reveal if they have been deceived or have incurred significant financial loss.
- Victims may also consider the incidents too trivial to be considered fraud, such as a person who receives a spam email that contains a scam may not consider this to be exposure to personal fraud, but instead just a trivial annoyance.
The last Personal Fraud Survey was conducted in 2007 and comparison between 2010-11 data and 2007 data can be made. Comparisons cannot be made for specific categories of scams as these categories are different in the 2010-11 survey to the 2007 survey. It should also be noted that even where the scam categories are the same, the way in which the scam questions were asked changed in 2010-11. See Explanatory Notes, paragraphs 12-17 for further information about the differences between the 2007 and 2010-11 surveys.