According to the 2010-11 Personal Fraud Survey, 1.2 million Australians aged 15 years and over were a victim of at least one incident of personal fraud in the 12 months prior to interview. This resulted in a national victimisation rate for personal fraud of 6.7%, which was of the population aged 15 years and over. Of the 1.2 million Australians who experienced at least one incident of personal fraud, nearly two thirds (60% or 713,600 persons) lost money due to an incident of fraud. The survey found Australian’s lost $1.4 billion as a result of personal fraud1.
The article explores victims of fraud by a range of socio-demographic characteristics, which are explained below.
AGE, SEX AND MARITAL STATUS
Age and sex may be both risk and protective factors for personal fraud victimisation. Understanding the relationships between these socio-demographic characteristics and victimisation experiences can help to identify those groups at greater risk of victimisation. For example, some age groups might use technology more and as a result be at greater risk of victimisation of certain types of fraud. Age groups reported in the survey were 15-24 years, 25-34 years, 35-44 years. 45-54 years, and 55 years and over.
In this survey, marriage refers to registered marital status only. Registered marital status is a person's relationship status in terms of whether he or she has, or has had, a registered marriage with another person. Accordingly, people are classified as either 'never married', 'married', 'widowed' or 'divorced'. Social marital status, which refers to relationship status of an individual with reference to another person who is resident in the household, is not collected in this survey.
Registered marital status may have a protective effect on experience of personal fraud as a trusted partner can provide advice and checks which prevent someone from responding to scams. However, marital status may also be a risk factor as couples may have a higher household income and/or volume of financial transactions, especially within larger households, which increase the risk of credit card fraud and identity theft.
Geographical residence describes the state and territory people reside in, whether or not they live in a capital city and the remoteness of their location. The ABS use a remoteness structure to identify geographical regions in each state and territory based on their access to services. Geographical regions used in the coverage for the survey2 included major cities of Australia, inner regional Australia, outer regional Australia and remote Australia. For more information on geographical residence, please refer to the Australian Standard Geographical Classification (cat. no. 1216.0).
Geographic residence may relate to the use of technology and whether residents in remote places would be more likely to buy and socialise online. People’s access to and use of technology is likely to vary with remoteness, particularly in terms of the extent to which they use and rely on the Internet, for example, those that have to do online shopping rather than shopping at a physical location, or network online instead of meeting in person.
EDUCATION AND OCCUPATION
The highest level of educational attainment refers to the highest level of non-school qualification obtained. This included those who had a bachelor degree or higher qualification, diploma or certificate, and no tertiary qualification.
Education level may be an indirect risk factor for experience of personal fraud through the relationship between educational attainment and income, or it may be a protective factor as people with higher levels of education may also be more aware of or better trained to assess risks associated with using credit cards and identifying and responding to scams.
Employment status includes whether people are employed, unemployed or not in the labour force, while occupation refers to the type of work they are employed in, and is based on occupation title and task. The occupation categories can be found in the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (cat. no. 1222.0).
Employment and occupation may both be indirect risk factors for personal fraud through their relationship with income.
EQUIVALISED HOUSEHOLD WEEKLY INCOME
Household income is a measure of the collective income of all persons living within the same residence and is potentially an important risk factor for whether or not a person experience personal fraud victimisation.
Equivalised household weekly income is gross weekly household income adjusted using an equivalence scale, with each variable category in this survey representing one fifth of the population, which is: lowest quintile, second quintile, third quintile, fourth quintile and highest quintile3.
1. Financial loss is for the 12 months prior to the interview in 2010-11 for credit card fraud and scams, and for the five years prior to the interview for identity theft.
2. The survey scope excluded people living in very remote areas of Australia. People living in Indigenous Communities in very remote parts of Australia were also excluded on coverage.
3. Equivalised total household income is total household income adjusted by the application of an equivalence scale to facilitate comparison of income levels between households of differing size and composition. The 'modified OECD' equivalence scale is used. Equivalised total household 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 household income. For a household comprising more than one person, it is an indicator of the household income that would be needed by a lone person household to enjoy the same level of economic wellbeing.