Latest release

Personal Fraud

Statistics about personal fraud, including card fraud, identity theft, and scams (phishing, romance, computer support, financial advice and more).

Reference period
2020-21 financial year

Key statistics

  • 11% of Australians experienced personal fraud in 2020-21, up from 8.5% in 2014-15
  • The increase was driven by a rise in card fraud (from 5.9% to 6.9%) and scams (from 2.4% to 3.6%)

  • Card fraud was the most common fraud type experienced in 2020-21 (6.9%)

Most statistics discussed in the commentary refer to experiences which occurred in the 12 months prior to interview (conducted between July 2020 and June 2021), referred to as the 2020-21 reference period.

Only data with a relative standard error (RSE) of less than 25% are referred to in the text, unless otherwise stated. Any differences between population groups or reference periods mentioned in the commentary are statistically significant at the 95% confidence level (refer to Methodology for more information).

All statistics referred to throughout the commentary are available from the Data downloads.

Personal fraud summary

Personal fraud includes card fraud, identity theft, and scams. For the definition of each type of fraud, refer to the Glossary.

An estimated 11% of Australians aged 15 years and over (2.1 million) experienced personal fraud in 2020-21. This was higher than the rate in 2014-15 (8.5%).

The most common type of personal fraud experienced in 2020-21 was card fraud.  

  1. Victimisation rate refers to the number of persons who experienced each fraud type in the last 12 months, expressed as a percentage of all persons aged 15 years and over.
  2. Respondents may have experienced more than one type of personal fraud, as such components may sum to more than the total.

Card Fraud

Card fraud involves the use of credit, debit, or EFTPOS card details to make purchases or withdraw cash without the account owner's permission.

An estimated 6.9% of Australians aged 15 years and over (1.4 million) experienced card fraud in 2020-21. This was higher than the rate in 2014-15 (5.9%).

Men (6.9%) and women (7.0%) experienced card fraud at a similar rate.

The card fraud victimisation rate varied by age, with those aged 15 to 24 years the least likely to experience card fraud (3.9%).

  1. Victimisation rate refers to the number of persons who experienced card fraud in the last 12 months, expressed as a percentage of all persons in the relevant age group.

The following groups were more likely to experience card fraud:

  • persons who are employed (7.9%) compared with persons who are unemployed (5.1%) or are not in the labour force (5.3%)

  • persons living in households in the highest quintile of equivalised weekly household income (10%) compared with persons in the lowest quintile (4.5%)

Characteristics of the most recent incident

Nearly all persons who experienced card fraud in 2020-21 reported the most recent incident to an authority (95% or 1.3 million), most commonly a bank or financial institution (89%).

  1. Reporting rate refers to the total number of persons who reported the most recent incident of card fraud to an authority, expressed as a percentage of the total number of persons that experienced card fraud in the last 12 months.
  2. Includes incidents where an organisation notified the respondent.
  3. The most recent incident of card fraud may have been reported to more than one authority.
  4. Estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution.

     

Approximately 33% of persons who experienced card fraud said their card details were obtained via the internet in the most recent incident, while 39% did not know how their card details were obtained.

  1. Estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution.

Identity theft

Identity theft is the use of someone’s personal details in stolen, fraudulent, or forged documents without permission, or otherwise illegally appropriating another’s identity.

An estimated 0.8% of Australians aged 15 years and over (154,300) experienced identity theft in 2020-21. This was similar to the rate in 2014-15 (0.7%).

Men (0.8%) and women (0.7%) experienced identity theft at a similar rate. Victimisation rates were also similar across other key socio-demographic characteristics such as age and employment status.

Characteristics of the most recent incident

Due to the low prevalence of identity theft in Australia, the characteristics information refers to the most recent incident of identity theft experienced in the 5 years prior to survey.

In the five years prior to the survey, an estimated 2.8% of persons (570,900) experienced identity theft. The majority (93% or 529,600) reported their most recent incident to an authority, most commonly a bank or financial institution (71%).

  1. Reporting rate refers to the total number of persons who reported the most recent incident of identity theft to an authority, expressed as a percentage of the total number of persons that experienced identity theft in the last 5 years.
  2. Includes incidents where an organisation notified the respondent.
  3. The most recent incident of identity theft may have been reported to more than one authority.

Of those who experienced identity theft, the stolen personal information was most commonly used to obtain money from a bank account, superannuation, or investments or shares (57% or 324,800).

  1. Stolen personal information may have been used for multiple purposes.
  2. Estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution.
  3. Includes: to provide false information to police, to rent an apartment or house, to apply for government benefits, and using personal information in some other way.

Scams

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. For definitions of specific scams refer to the Glossary.

The 2020-21 Personal Fraud Survey collected two distinct scam concepts:

  • Exposed to a scam: A person was considered to have been exposed to a scam if they had received an unsolicited invitation, request, notification or offer, and read, viewed, or listened to the material. This is a measure of how many people are encountering scams in the community. In this survey, mere exposure to a scam does not constitute being a victim of a scam.

  • Responded to a scam: A person is considered to have responded to a scam if, after being exposed to the scam, they sought further information, provided money or personal information, or accessed links associated with the scam. In this survey, only those who responded to a scam were considered to have been a victim of (experienced) a scam.

Note: due to the deceptive nature of scams, people may not always be aware that they have been exposed to or responded to a scam, see Methodology for more information.

    Diagram 1: Experiences of scams in the last 12 months

    Diagram shows that of the 20.3 million persons aged 15 years and over in Australia in 2020-21, 11.1 million were exposed to a scam and 9.2 million were not exposed to a scam. Of the 11.1 million persons exposed to a scam, 723,100 responded to a scam and 10.4 million did not respond to a scam.

    Diagram 1: Experiences of scams in the last 12 months

    Scam exposure rate refers to the number of persons who were exposed to a scam, expressed as a percentage of total persons.

    Scam victimisation rate refers to the number of persons who responded to a scam, expressed as a percentage of total persons.

    Scam responding rate refers to the number of persons who responded to a scam, expressed as a percentage of total persons who were exposed to a scam (included in data downloads only).

    Scam exposure

    An estimated 55% of Australians aged 15 years and over (11.1 million) were exposed to a scam in 2020-21. This was similar to the rate in 2014-15 (56%).

    The scam exposure rate was similar for men (54%) and women (55%).

    Exposure rate by mode

    People were most commonly exposed to a scam over the phone (38% or 7.8 million) or by email (32% or 6.5 million).

    1. Exposure rate refers to the number of persons who were exposed to a scam via a particular mode in the last 12 months, expressed as a percentage of all persons aged 15 years and over.
    2. Respondents may have been exposed to scams via more than one mode.

    Exposure rate by scam type

    The most common types of scams people were exposed to in 2020-21 were:

    • information request or phishing scams (34% or 6.9 million)

    • computer support scams (16% or 3.2 million)

    • financial advice scams (13% or 2.7 million)

    1. ​​Exposure rate refers to the number of persons who were exposed to the scam type in the last 12 months, expressed as a percentage of all persons aged 15 years and over.
    2. Respondents may have been exposed to more than one type of scam.

    Exposure to a COVID-19 pandemic related scam

    Of the 11.1 million Australians who were exposed to a scam in 2020-21, approximately 431,100 perceived at least one scam to be related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This equates to 2.1% of the population aged 15 years and over.

    Changes over time by scam type

    The exposure rate for the following scam types increased between 2014-15 and 2020-21:

    • information request or phishing scams (from 27% to 34%)
    • financial advice scams (from 7.8% to 13%)
    • buying or selling scams (from 5.1% to 9.2%)

    For all other comparable scam types, the exposure rate decreased.

    1. Exposure rate refers to the number of persons who were exposed to a scam type in the last 12 months, expressed as a percentage of all persons aged 15 years and over.
    2. Due to definitional changes, employment scams, betting or sports investment scams, and threats or extortion scams are not comparable between 2014-15 and 2020-21 and therefore excluded from this analysis.
    3. Labelled as online trading or auction site in 2014-15.

    Scam victimisation

    An estimated 3.6% of persons aged 15 years and over (723,100) experienced a scam in 2020-21, meaning they were exposed to a scam and responded by seeking further information, providing money or personal information, or accessing links associated with the scam. This was higher than the rate in 2014-15 (2.4%).

    The scam victimisation rate was similar for men (3.3%) and women (3.8%), but varied by age, with those aged 15 to 24 years the least likely to experience a scam.

    1. Victimisation rate refers to the number of persons who experienced a scam in the last 12 months, expressed as a percentage of all persons in the relevant age group.

    Victimisation rate by scam type

    The most common types of scams people experienced were:

    • information request or phishing scams (1.0% or 203,900)
    • buying or selling scams (0.8% or 167,400)
    1. Victimisation rate refers to the number of persons who experienced the scam type in the last 12 months, expressed as a percentage of all persons aged 15 years and over.
    2. Respondents may have experienced more than one type of scam.
    3. Estimates for charity, betting or sports investment and employment scams are not shown due to high error associated with the estimates.
    4. Estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution.

    Changes over time by scam type

    The victimisation rate for the following scam types increased between 2014-15 and 2020-21:

    • information request or phishing scams (from 0.4% to 1.0%)
    • buying or selling scams (from 0.5% to 0.8%)
    • upfront payment scams (from 0.2% to 0.4%)
    • financial advice scams (from *0.1% to 0.4%)

    Over the same time period, the victimisation rate decreased for computer support scams (from 0.6% to 0.3%) and lottery scams (from 0.2% to *0.1%).

    Please note, figures marked with an asterisk (*) have a relative standard error of between 25% and 50% and should be used with caution.

    1. ​​​​​​Victimisation rate refers to the number of persons who experienced the scam type in the last 12 months, expressed as a percentage of all persons. 
    2. Due to definitional changes, employment scams, betting or sports investment scams, and threats or extortion scams are not comparable between 2014-15 and 2020-21 and therefore excluded from this analysis.
    3. Data for pyramid scams are not shown as at least one victimisation rate has an RSE greater than 50%.
    4. Labelled as online trading or auction site in 2014-15.
    5. Estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution.

    Characteristics of the most serious incident

    Respondents who experienced one or more scams in the previous 12 months were asked about the characteristics of the most serious incident. The most serious incident was determined by the respondent.

    Approximately 50% of persons (357,600) who experienced a scam in 2020-21 reported their most serious incident to an authority, most often a bank or financial institution (27% or 197,600).

    1. Reporting rate refers to the total number of persons who reported the most serious incident of scam victimisation to an authority, expressed as a percentage of the total number of persons that experienced a scam in the last 12 months.
    2. Includes incidents where an organisation notified the respondent.
    3. The most serious incident of scam victimisation may have been reported to more than one authority.

    The reporting rates were similar for men (48%) and women (51%), and relatively consistent across other key socio-demographic characteristics such as age and employment status.

    However, the reporting rate varied by scam type, ranging from 23% for computer support scams to 65% for buying or selling scams.

    1. Reporting rate refers to the total number of persons who reported the most serious incident of scam victimisation to an authority, expressed as a percentage of the total number of persons who identified that scam type as their most serious scam in the last 12 months.
    2. Includes incidents where an organisation notified the respondent.
    3. Estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution.

    Data downloads

    Personal fraud (Tables 1a to 13b)

    Experiences of personal fraud including card fraud, identity theft and selected scams. Includes: victimisation rates, reporting rates, key socio-demographic characteristics and incident characteristics. 

    Data item list

    List of data items collected in the survey. 

    All data cubes

    All Personal Fraud, 2020-21 data download files.

    Previous catalogue number

    This release previously used catalogue number 4528.0.