4528.0 - Personal Fraud, 2007 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/06/2008   
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Advance fee fraud

An unsolicited request to transfer funds into a person's bank account. Advance fee fraud commonly involves an elaborate or dramatic 'story' in which a large sum of money needs to be transferred, and the victim's account is needed to move the money. The fraudulent request usually promises that a commission or fee will be paid for the assistance provided, but instead funds are withdrawn illegally from the victim's account.

Behaviour change

Respondents were asked whether their behaviour had changed as a result of the most recent incident of each identity fraud or scam victimisation. If so, they were invited to nominate any number of ways in which their behaviour had changed in an open response; as such a broad range of responses were received. These were re-coded to six broad categories of responses:

  • more careful or aware;
  • changed ISP or email address, payment methods, credit card details or internet security;
  • stopped engaging, ignore, or no longer deal with that organisation or person;
  • changes to contact details or home or physical security;
  • reduced wellbeing; and
  • other.

Chain letter

An invitation in the form of a letter (or email) to send a specified amount of money or goods to the name at the top of a list, delete that name and add your own name to the bottom of the list before sending the letter to a number of other people. For the purposes of this survey chain letters that did not ask for money or goods to be sent, or only asked for goods of negligible value, were excluded.

Credit or bank card fraud

Credit or bank card fraud involves the use of credit or bank card details to make purchases or withdraw cash without the owner's permission. For the purposes of this survey, credit or bank card fraud also included the fraudulent use of other cards such as 'keycards' and debit cards.

Degree/diploma or higher education

Includes education qualifications of Postgraduate degree; Graduate diploma or graduate certificate; Bachelor degree; and Advanced diploma or diploma.

Equivalised household income

Gross household income adjusted using an equivalence scale. For a lone person household it is equal to gross household income. For a household comprising more than one person, it is an indicator of the gross household income that would need to be received by a lone person household to enjoy the same level of economic well-being as the household in question.

Exposure to scams

A person was considered to have been exposed to a scam if they received an unsolicited invitation, request, notification or offer, and viewed or read the unsolicited material.


The act of intentionally deceiving another for the purpose of gaining an advantage or benefit, whether financial or otherwise.

Financial advice

An unsolicited fraudulent offer to supply financial advice about topics such as investment telemarketing, share promotions, investment seminars, real estate, computer prediction or betting software and superannuation. Some schemes offer abnormally high short-term returns and rely on a continual flow of money from investors to keep the scheme going. For the purposes of this survey, legitimate offers of financial or investment advice, even if unwanted, were excluded, as was any advice that was sought by the respondent.

Identity theft

The use of someone's personal details without permission, or otherwise illegally appropriating another's identity (for example, using a drivers licence or Tax File Number in stolen, fraudulent or forged documents; conducting business; opening accounts or taking out loans illegally in another person's name).

Identity fraud

The theft of a pre-existing identity without the person's consent, where the person's name, date of birth, address or other personal details are used to engage in fraudulent activities such as conducting business, opening accounts, taking out loans or avoiding criminal liability. This includes credit or bank card fraud and identity theft.

Incurred financial loss

This relates to the most recent incident only. Respondents were asked to provide an approximate total amount of money lost to the most recent incident of each identity fraud or scam victimisation. For identity frauds, this amounted to money lost before any form of reimbursement from authorities. For scams, this amounted to money lost through responding to the fraudulent invitation, request, notification or offer.


A scam where a person receives a fraudulent notification of having won a lottery or prize for a draw that they did not enter, and are asked to provide personal details or pay a fee in order to collect their prize or winnings. This excludes registered lotteries such as Readers Digest.

Mean financial loss

Calculated by dividing total financial loss by the number of victims who had lost money.

Median financial loss

Calculated by arranging, from smallest to largest, the total financial losses for each victim who lost money to personal fraud. The median is the number that divides these data into two equal parts, one half having total financial losses below the median and the other half having total financial losses above the median.

Most recent incident

Detailed characteristics (such as method of fraud, reporting of incidents, financial loss, time lost or behaviour changes) of each type of fraud were collected 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.

Non-school qualification

Non-school qualifications are awarded for educational attainments other than those of pre-primary, primary or secondary education. They include qualifications at the Postgraduate Degree level, Master Degree level, Graduate Diploma and Graduate Certificate level, Bachelor Degree level, Advanced Diploma and Diploma level, and Certificates I, II, III and IV levels. Non-school qualifications may be attained concurrently with school qualifications.

Other qualification

Includes education qualifications of Certificate I, II, III or IV; or other Certificates that are not further defined.

Other scams

Other scams not separately identified in the survey. Includes for example fraudulent door to door sales, fraudulent repair work, etc.

Personal income

Gross weekly personal income from all sources.

Phishing and related scams

Scams which involve a fraudulent request, purporting to be from a business or bank, to confirm a person's bank account or personal details using a range of methods such as by email, landline, mobile telephone, post or in person. Phishing is an attempt to acquire personal information, such as an account number, password, credit card details, etc., usually via email or instant messaging, in which the email purports to be from a legitimate or trustworthy business or bank and directs a person to a hoax website to verify their account details. Vishing is a variant on phishing where the method used is the telephone either using Voice over IP (VoIP) or a 'live person' to gain access to a person's bank account/personal details, rather than the email/internet.

Pyramid scheme

A multi-level selling technique where the main feature is that earning money and gaining promotion depends on recruiting other people into the operations rather than selling a product or providing a service.


A scam is a fraudulent invitation, request, notification or offer, designed to obtain personal information or money or otherwise obtain a financial benefit by deceptive means.

Total financial loss

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.

Time lost

Respondents were asked to estimate the total amount of time they had spent dealing with the most recent incident of each identity fraud or scam victimisation, from first becoming aware of the incident.

Victimisation rate

The total number of victims of a personal fraud type in a given population, expressed as a percentage of that population.


A person who has experienced credit or bank card fraud or identity theft; or a person who has not only received a fraudulent invitation, request or notification, but has also responded to that offer or request by supplying personal information, money or both, or seeking more information in relation to these requests.


Respondents were asked whether their behaviour had changed as a result of the most recent incident of each identity fraud or scam victimisation. The 'wellbeing' category of behaviour change includes responses involving emotional reactions, social withdrawal, psychological changes, and a loss of trust in other people or institutions.