4528.0 - Personal Fraud, 2010-2011 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 19/04/2012   
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1 This publication presents results from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Personal Fraud Survey. The Personal Fraud Survey was conducted throughout Australia from July 2010 to June 2011. The survey was included as a module of the Crime Victimisation Survey, as part of the 2010-11 Multi-Purpose Household Survey (MPHS), a supplement to the monthly Labour Force Survey (LFS). This is the second time that national data about personal fraud has been collected, with the first Personal Fraud Survey being conducted in 2007.

2 The Personal Fraud Survey collected information from individuals about their experience of selected personal fraud in the 12 months prior to interview (except for identity theft where persons were asked if they have ever been a victim of identity theft and then data was collected about experiences in the five years, two years and 12 months prior to interview) and whether they incurred any financial loss. Detailed characteristics of the victims and incidents of fraud were also collected. Of the 32,555 private dwellings selected to participate in the Personal Fraud Survey, 26,405 (81%) fully responded to the survey.

3 Further information about data collection is provided in paragraphs 9-11.


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, and
  • members of non-Australian defence forces (and their dependants).
5 In addition, the 2010-011 MPHS also excluded the following from its scope:
  • people living in very remote parts of Australia, and
  • people living in non-private 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, women's shelters), and inmates of prisons.
6 As indicated above, the scope of the MPHS excluded persons living in very remote parts of Australia. The exclusion of these people is unlikely to impact on state and territory estimates, except in the Northern Territory where they account for approximately 23% of the total population.


7 The coverage of the 2010–11 MPHS was the same as the scope, except that persons living in Indigenous communities in non-very remote areas were not covered for operational reasons.

8 In the LFS, rules are applied which aim to ensure that each person in coverage is associated with only one dwelling and hence has only one chance of selection in the survey. See Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0) for more details.


9 The MPHS was conducted as a supplement to the monthly LFS. Each month one eighth of the dwellings in the LFS sample were rotated out of the survey. Genarally, around 80% of these dwellings were then selected for the MPHS each month. In these dwellings, after the LFS had been fully completed for each person in scope and coverage, a person aged 15 years and over was selected at random (based on a computer algorithm) and asked the various MPHS topic questions in a personal interview. If the randomly selected person was aged 15–17 years, permission was sought from a parent or guardian before conducting the interview. If permission was not given, the parent or guardian was asked the crime questions on behalf of the 15–17 year old, but was not asked the questions about perceptions of social disorder, or the questions relating to alcohol or substances contributing to the most recent physical or face-to-face threatened assault. Only those persons aged 18 years and over were asked questions on sexual assault. Data was collected using Computer Assisted Interviewing (CAI), whereby responses were recorded directly onto an electronic questionnaire in a notebook computer, usually during a telephone interview.

10 For the 2010–11 MPHS, the sample was accumulated over a 12 month period from July 2010 to June 2011.

11 The publication Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0) contains definitions of socio-demographic and labour force characteristics, and information about telephone interviewing that is relevant to both the monthly LFS and MPHS.

12 There have been a number of changes from the 2007 Personal Fraud survey which have affected the comparability of some data items from the 2010-11 survey with data from the 2007 survey.

13 The 2007 survey was conducted over a six month period from July to December whereas the 2010-11 survey was conducted over 12 months. Care should be taken when comparing estimates relating to the last 12 months prior to interview, as seasonal and other external factors may have influenced the rate or nature of fraud perpetration and awareness between January and June. Impacts of these factors cannot be quantified.

14 Due to the relatively low prevalence of identity theft and the time that can elapse before the incident is fully revealed, respondents were asked if they had ever become aware of an incident and then further data was collected about incidents that occurred in the five years, two years and 12 months prior to interview. Identity theft data was only collected about the 12 months prior to interview in 2007. Table 8 in Downloads shows characteristics of all incidents respondents became aware of in the last 5 years and is not comparable to 2007 data. Data for the 2010-11 survey describing characteristics of victims of identity theft in Table 6 relates to incidents in the last 12 months only and is comparable to similar tables in the 2007 publication.

15 Some of the types of selected scams included in 2010-11 differ from those in 2007 and it is not recommended to directly compare data disseminated by scam type. While the categories of 'lotteries', 'pyramid schemes', and 'chain letters' are similar, the question wording changed from the wording used in 2007. 'Phishing' (a fraudulent request, purporting to be from a business or bank, to confirm a person’s bank account or personal details) was included 2007, but has been incorporated into the following new categories: 'a fake notification or offer from a bank or other financial institution' and 'a fake notification or offer from an established business'. 'Advance fee fraud' (an unsolicited request to transfer funds into a person's bank account in return for a commission or fee) was also included in 2007. The 2011 category 'requests to send bank or financial details to another person' is similar, but did not specify the request was in return for a commission or fee. The 2007 category 'financial advice' is not a separate category in 2010-11 and is therefore included in 'other scams'.

16 Information about characteristics of incidents of personal fraud are not comparable across the two reference periods. In 2007, detailed characteristics were collected about the most recent incident of each type of fraud. The 2010-11 survey collected detailed characteristics about all incidents in the last 12 months for each fraud type. Some of the characteristics of the incidents that were collected also changed between 2007 and 2010-11. The 2007 survey collected data about time lost due and behaviour change due to the fraud incident for each fraud type, but the 2010-11 survey did not collect these data items. The 2010-11 survey collected additional data items about incidents of personal fraud types, such as how the victim responded to the scam, the number of cards mis-used for credit or bank fraud and how the victim's personal information was used for identity theft.

17 Information about financial loss related to the total loss for all incidents of each type of fraud in the last 12 months in both 2007 and 2010-11 and is therefore comparable.


18 As fraud is a complex phenomenon there may be situations where a scam incident involves the theft of 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.

19 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.

20 Other issues that may impact on the accuracy of the data include:
  • 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 (except for identity theft).
  • Sometimes people may not be able to judge whether some of their experiences have been legitimate or fraudulent.
  • 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 recall this event as an exposure to personal fraud, but instead just a trivial annoyance.

21 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.
22 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.



23 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.

24 Detailed information about the characteristics of identity fraud or scam incidents 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

25 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.

26 The survey sought to establish the number of incidents of credit or bank card fraud or identity theft, that is, the number of times the respondent had their personal or financial details stolen. The survey did not collect the number of individual transactions or cash withdrawals that occurred in each incident 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 incident of the card being stolen and used fraudulently was counted.

Victim counts

27 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 a chain letter scam and a lottery scam. This person would be counted in both scam categories. A total count of victims for all types of personal fraud is also available, 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.


28 Socio-demographic characteristics, such as age, sex, labour force status and personal weekly income were collected about all respondents. The survey provides a profile of these victim characteristics for each type of personal fraud.


29 Detailed characteristics (such as method of fraud, reporting of incidents, and financial loss) of each type of fraud were collected for all incidents of that fraud type.


30 For each different type of personal fraud, victims were asked to report the amount of money they lost as a result of all incidents. For credit card fraud this refers to the total financial lost before any reimbursement from the card issuer. Information is reported separately for the amount of money lost after reimbursement for credit card fraud (see Table 2 in Downloads showing the amount of financial loss after any reimbursement from the card issuer).

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


32 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.

33 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.

34 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.

35 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.

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


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

Sampling error

38 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

39 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 include 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 non-sampling error by careful design and testing of questionnaires, training and supervision of interviewers, and extensive editing and quality control procedures at all stages of data processing. For more information about non-sampling error in the Personal Fraud Survey, see paragraphs 19 and 20.


40 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.


41 In addition to the tables in the data cubes available in the Downloads tab, other tables will be able to be produced using Survey TableBuilder (STB). STB is an online tool for creating tables and graphs from survey data. STB for the 2010–11 Crime Victimisation topic, including Personal Fraud, is expected to be available in mid-2012. General information about this product, including cost, can be found on the About Survey TableBuilder page.

42 A Confidentialised Unit Record File for the 2010–11 Personal Fraud Survey will not be available.


43 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.


44 A wide range of information about Crime and Justice statistics can be found on the ABS Crime and Justice Topics @ a Glance web page. This page includes information on current and upcoming projects, links to recent crime and justice publications and resources, and information about current issues in the crime and justice sector.

45 The Related Information tab associated with this release contains links to a selected range of ABS Crime and Justice publications.