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Personal Fraud

Contains data about persons who experienced selected personal fraud offences, including card fraud, identity theft and a range of personal scams

Reference period
2014-15

Key findings

Rising proportion of Australians experienced personal fraud

In the 12 months prior to interview in 2014-15, an estimated 1.6 million Australians experienced personal fraud, or 8.5% of the population aged 15 and over. This is an increase from the proportion of persons who experienced personal fraud in 2010-11 (6.7%).

The majority of persons who experienced personal fraud experienced a single incident (71% or 1.1 million).

The most common fraud type was card fraud with 1.1 million persons (or 5.9% of the population aged 15 and over) experiencing card fraud, an increase from 2010-11 when the rate was 3.7%.

Types of personal fraud

Card fraud

Just under a third (31%) of persons experiencing card fraud reported experiencing two or more incidents.

Identity theft

An estimated 126,300 persons in Australia were victims of identity theft (or 0.7% of the population aged 15 and over).

The majority of persons who experienced identity theft experienced a single incident (103,400 or 82%).

Scam fraud

Just over half of the Australian population aged 15 and over were exposed to at least one scam (56% or 10.4 million persons). This was an increase from 2010-11, when the proportion of persons exposed to at least one scam was 36% (6.4 million).

Nationally, 4% (449,100) of persons exposed to a scam also responded to at least one scam, either by supplying personal information, money or both, or by seeking more information in relation to the request. This represented 2.4% of the population aged 15 and over, which was a decrease from 2010-11, where 2.9% of the population (514,500) responded to at least one scam.

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  1. Due to changes in the survey questionnaire wording regarding experience of identity theft, data from 2014-15 are not comparable with those from 2010-11.

Financial loss due to fraud

Three-quarters (1.2 million or 75%) of persons who experienced personal fraud incurred a financial loss. The total estimated financial loss as a result of all personal fraud incidents was $3 billion dollars.

The total estimated financial loss to card fraud in 2014-15 was $2.1 billion, which was double the total amount lost to card fraud in 2010-11 ($1.0 billion). However, the financial loss after reimbursement (out of pocket loss) decreased between 2010-11 and 2014-15, from $208.9 million to $84.8 million.

Overview of personal fraud

Social and policy context

As technology advances the lives of Australian people and businesses, personal fraud has become an ever growing threat to personal and financial security, as well as the economy and global commerce. Personal fraud has fast become one of the most prevalent contemporary crimes society is dealing with, and the impacts are far reaching. Rapid expansion and availability of internet technology and the increase in electronic storage, transmission and sharing of information has increased our vulnerability to electronic fraud, particularly in recent years. Although the use of stolen, fabricated or manipulated identities to commit or enable crime is not a new phenomenon (Smith 2011 cited in Smith and Hutchings 2014), it has been enhanced by this expansion of new technologies and our change in online behaviour. For example, the increased global use of social media has provided more opportunities for criminals to falsify identities and commit online fraud offences. GPS-enabled devices (such as phones) that share location information may reveal personal information such as home address or work address, leaving us vulnerable to personal fraud crimes. In the past 5 years alone, there has been a significant increase in online retail purchasing, online banking (including PayPal and BPAY) and tap-and-go card payments, which has contributed to an increased risk of personal details being accessed. We are also more vulnerable to online scams. As noted by Smith and Hutchings (2014) 'email has proved an effective way of disseminating advance fee letters, as the true identity of the sender is easy to disguise and original supporting documentation unable to be checked for authenticity'.

With increasing levels of fraud, financial institutions have become more experienced in identifying fraud, and can terminate fraudulent transactions often before the victim realises they are a victim. The private and public sectors continue to work together to tackle the growing concern of personal fraud, including the establishment of bodies such as SCAMWatch, the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) and the Australian Payments Clearing House (APCA). These initiatives contribute to a whole-of-government approach to increase community awareness through public education campaigns, as well as generating interest around personal fraud research and enhancing enforcement activity against personal fraud.

The scale and impact of personal fraud is hard to measure, due to issues of definition, awareness of victimisation, low reporting rates and inconsistent data recording practices among agencies that detect or deal with these incidents. This survey provides a national benchmark measure of the extent to which Australians are aware that they have been exposed to a range of personal frauds, whether they responded to a selected range of personal frauds, and whether they incurred any financial loss as a result of their experience of personal fraud. Through gathering detailed demographics about those experiencing higher rates of victimisation, it is possible to develop more robust fraud prevention policies. Developing sound statistical data and raising awareness around protecting identity will be essential in decreasing the threat of personal fraud and preserving online safety in the future.

Measuring personal fraud

The objective of a fraud is to gain financial or other advantage over a person by means of deception. Fraudulent activities can be undertaken in various ways and therefore are 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 are complicated due to the lack of a single centralised body. This is made even more difficult by the fact that not everyone who experiences fraud will become aware of it or report it. Data collected using household surveys also have limitations, such as recall difficulties and willingness to reveal certain information.

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 reference period (June 2014 to July 2015) 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 persons may have difficulty in judging whether some of their experiences have been legitimate or fraudulent.
  • As personal fraud activities aim to deceive victims, some persons may never discover frauds that have been perpetrated against them, or may discover such events long after they have taken place.
  • Persons may not be willing to reveal if they have been deceived or have incurred significant financial loss.
  • Persons may also consider the incidents too trivial to be considered fraud.
     

This publication presents findings from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2014-15 Personal Fraud Survey conducted throughout Australia from July 2014 to June 2015. The last Personal Fraud Survey was conducted in 2010-11 and comparisons between 2010-11 data and 2014-15 data can generally be made. Comparisons cannot be made for identity theft due to a change in the survey questionnaire wording, or for specific categories of scams, as these categories are generally different in the 2014-15 survey. See the Methodology for further information about the differences between the 2010-11 and 2014-15 surveys.

Footnote

Smith RG and Hutchings A (2014). 'Identity crime and misuse in Australia: Results of the 2013 online survey.' Australian Institute of Criminology, Research and Public Policy Series, No. 128.

Card fraud

How many Australians experienced card fraud? (tables 2 and 3)

In the 12 months prior to survey in 2014-15, an estimated 1.1 million or 5.9% of the population aged 15 years and over in Australia experienced card fraud, an increase from 2010-11 when the rate was 3.7%.

The majority of card fraud victims experienced a single incident (70% or 765,300).

Who experienced card fraud? (table 8)

Males and females were equally likely to experience card fraud (5.7% and 6.0% respectively).

Persons aged 15 to 24 and 55 years and over were the least likely of all age categories to experience card fraud in the 12 months prior to survey (2.4% and 4.4% respectively).

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Married persons were more likely than unmarried persons to experience card fraud in the 12 months prior to survey (6.8% compared to 4.5%).

Persons holding a degree, diploma or higher qualification (8.4%) or another non-school qualification (6.1%) were more likely to experience card fraud than persons with no non-school qualification (3.8%).

Employed persons were more likely to experience card fraud than unemployed persons and persons not in the labour force (7.2% compared to 4.7% and 3.5% respectively).

The likelihood of experiencing card fraud increased as personal weekly income increased. Persons earning $2,000 and over per week were three times as likely to experience card fraud compared to persons earning less than $500 per week.

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How did people find out about card fraud? (table 9)

Over half (53%) of persons who experienced card fraud discovered the fraud themselves. Of those who were informed by someone else (47% or 520,300), 462,300 were informed by a bank or financial institution, 42,000 by a credit card company, and 19,400 by police, consumer affairs/ombudsman or other agency.

Was the most recent incident of card fraud reported? (table 9)

Of all persons who experienced card fraud, including those who discovered the fraud themselves and those who were informed of the fraud by someone else, over half (57% or 621,700) reported the incident - 482,200 reported to a bank or financial institution, 86,100 reported to a credit card company, and a further 87,600 reported to police.

How much was lost in the most recent incident? (table 9)

The majority of persons who experienced card fraud (88%) had lost, at the time of survey, around one work day (8 hours) or less dealing with the most recent incident.

Two-thirds of persons (66% or 730,500) who experienced card fraud sought reimbursement, with 655,500 receiving reimbursement and 75,000 seeking reimbursement but not receiving any. A further 104,700 persons did not seek reimbursement but received some, while 237,000 persons neither sought nor received reimbursement.

Before any reimbursement, around a third of persons (31%) who experienced card fraud had an estimated loss of $1-$100, one-quarter had an estimated loss of $101-$500 (26%), 29% had an estimated loss of $501-$5,000 and 5% had an estimated loss over $5,000.

Approximately one in ten persons who experienced card fraud (9%) indicated that they had lost money even after receiving reimbursement, with 3% losing $100 or less and 3% losing between $101-$500.

How did behaviour change after experiencing card fraud? (table 9)

Half of all persons (50% or 554,900) who experienced card fraud changed their behaviour as a result of all incidents experienced, including becoming more careful or aware (407,100), changing card details (160,300) and changing payment method (92,800).

Identity theft

How many Australians experienced identity theft? (tables 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

In the 12 months prior to survey in 2014-15, an estimated 126,300 Australians experienced identity theft, or 0.7% of the population aged 15 years and over. The majority experienced a single incident only (103,400 or 82% of all identity theft victims).

Due to changes in the survey questionnaire wording regarding experience of identity theft, data from 2014-15 are not comparable with those from 2010-11.

Who experienced identity theft? (table 8)

In the 12 months prior to survey, persons aged 25 to 34 were most likely to experience identity theft (1.0% or 33,700 persons in that age group) whilst persons aged 55 years and over were the least likely (0.4% or 25,900 persons in that age group).

Unmarried persons were more likely than married persons to experience identity theft (0.9% or 65,200 persons compared to 0.5% or 57,600 persons aged 15 and over).

Persons with a degree, diploma, or higher qualification were more likely than persons with no non-school qualification to experience identity theft (0.8% or 48,900 persons compared to 0.5% or 42,200 persons aged 15 and over).

What happened in the most recent incident of identity theft?

How was identity information stolen in the most recent incident? (table 10)

Of the persons who experienced identity theft in the five years prior to survey in 2014-15, over one-quarter (27% or 90,100) had their personal details stolen over the internet (including 5% via social media, 8% via email and 14% in another way via the internet), whilst one in ten (10% or 34,700) had their personal details obtained in person. A quarter of victims (26% or 87,300) were not aware of how their personal details were stolen.

How was stolen identity information used in the most recent incident? (table 10)

Around one in twelve persons who experienced identity theft in the five years prior to the survey (18% or 61,400) had their personal information used to apply for a loan or gain credit.

How did people find out about their most recent incident of identity theft? (table 10)

Just under one in four persons who experienced identity theft in the five years prior to the survey (23% or 77,600) became aware that their personal details had been stolen after receiving a notification or query from a government agency or authority, whilst a further 12% (38,700) became aware after receiving a bill from a business or company.

Was the most recent incident of identity theft reported? (table 10)

Half of all persons who experienced identity theft in the five years prior to the survey reported the most recent incident to an authority (51% or 172,300), including to a business (57,900), police (55,200), and the issuer of the document (47,900).

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  1. Incident may have been reported to more than one authority so components may not add to 100%.
  2. Includes consumer affairs/ombudsman and other authorities.

How much was lost in the most recent incident? (table 10)

Of the persons who experienced identity theft in the five years prior to the survey, one in three estimated they had lost, at the time of survey, less than one hour of their time due to the incident (33% or 111,100), 37% (125,000) estimated they had lost between one to eight hours, and one in five (19% or 63,800) estimated they had lost more than eight hours.

Four in five persons who experienced identity theft (81% or 272,500) were still finalising issues relating to the most recent incident at the time of the survey.

Around one in ten persons who experienced identity theft (11% or 37,500) lost money as a result of their most recent experience.

How did behaviour change after experiencing identity theft? (table 10)

Just under half of persons who experienced identity theft (46% or 156,500) changed their behaviour as a result of all incidents experienced. This included:

  • becoming more careful or aware (115,300)
  • changing credit card details (25,500)
  • changing email address (20,600)
  • changing payment methods (21,000)
  • becoming more apprehensive or withdrawn (15,100)
  • and changing or installing internet security (12,300).
     
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  1. Persons may have changed their behaviour in more than one way.
  2. Includes stopped engaging, ignored, or no longer dealt with organisation or person; became more apprehensive or withdrawn; and other.

Scam fraud

How many Australians were exposed to scams? (table 7)

In the 12 months prior to survey in 2014-15, just over half of the Australian population aged 15 and over were exposed to at least one scam (56% or 10.4 million). This was an increase from 2010-11, where the proportion of persons aged 15 and over exposed to at least one scam was 36% (6.4 million).

What scams were Australians were exposed to? (table 11)

Lottery scam was the most common scam type, with 31% (5.9 million) of the population aged 15 and over exposed to this type of scam. This was followed by computer support scam (29% or 5.5 million), and information request scam (27% or 5.1 million).

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  1. Total number of persons who were exposed to the scam, expressed as a percentage of all persons aged 18 years and over.

How many Australians responded to scams? (table 7)

Nationally, of the 10.4 million persons exposed to a scam, 4% (449,100) responded to at least one scam, either by supplying personal information, money or both, or by seeking more information in relation to the request. This represented 2.4% of the population aged 15 years and over. This was a decrease from 2010-11 where 2.9% of the population (514,500) responded to at least one scam.

What scams did Australians respond to? (table 11)

Of persons exposed to scams, more people responded to a computer support scam (113.000 or 0.6% of the population) than online trading or auction site scam (91,800 or 0.5%), or information request scam (72,900 or 0.4%).

The responding rate (proportion of persons exposed to a particular scam type who responded) was highest for online trading or auction site scam with nearly 10% of persons exposed to this type of scam responding to it.

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Who responded to scams? (table 13)

Persons aged 35 to 44 were most likely to respond to a scam (3.2% or 100,600 persons in that age group). Persons aged 15 to 24 were least likely to respond to a scam (1.7% or 50,800 persons in that age group).

Unemployed persons were more likely to respond to at least one scam (4.0%) than employed persons (2.6%) and persons not in the labour force (2.0%).

How much time was lost as a result of the most serious scams incident? (table 4)

Half of all people (52% or 235,000) responding to a scam lost less than an hour of their time as a result of the incident.

What were the most serious scam incidents responded to? (table 14)

When asked about the most serious scam incident responded to, 24% (or 108,900 persons) indicated that this was a computer support scam. This was followed by online trading or auction site scam (21% or 94,900) and information request scam (15% or 68,200).

How were scams received in the most serious incident? (table 14)

About three in five (61% or 274,700) scam offers in the most serious incident were received over the internet (including 39% by email, 7% by social media and 15% by another way over the internet). This was followed by phone call (25% or 114,300).

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How did people respond to their most serious scam? (table 14)

The most common way persons responded to a scam offer was to ask for more information (34% or 153,400). This was followed by accessing a website (30% or 134,600).

How did people become aware they were being scammed in their most serious incident? (table 14)

Nearly half of persons who responded to a scam became aware it was a scam based on their own suspicions (48% or 214,200).

Was the most serious scam incident reported? (table 14)

Just over a third (36% or 159,600) of persons responding to a scam reported the incident to an agency. Of persons who responded to a scam, 70,900 reported the incident to a business, 49,800 to another agency, 42,900 to police and 17,400 to consumer affairs or an ombudsman.

How did behaviour change after experiencing at least one scam? (table 14)

Of persons who responded to a scam, 60% (268,900) changed their behaviour after experiencing a scam. The most common change in behaviour was to become more careful or aware (240,600), followed by ceasing to engage with, ignoring, or no longer dealing with the organisation or person (69,300).

Data downloads

List of tables

Personal fraud summary (Tables 1 to 7a)

Identity fraud (tables 8 to 10a)

Scams (tables 11 to 14a)

Personal fraud data item list

Persons aged 55 years and over (tables 15 to 18a)

History of changes

Show all

12/05/2016 - Additional information release of an article focusing on experiences of fraud by persons aged 55 years and over and accompanying datacube.

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 4528.0.