Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce 2015 Survey
The survey will be available to completed after 1 January 2015 and will be open until 30 April 2015.
The Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce (ACFT) includes 22 government regulatory agencies and departments in Australia and New Zealand that work alongside private sector, community and non-government partners to prevent fraud. The ACFT has conducted a range of fraud prevention and awareness-raising activities since 2006. The Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) is a member of the Taskforce and chair of the research subgroup.
One key activity of the AIC, on behalf of the Taskforce, is to host an annual consumer fraud survey to obtain a snapshot of the public’s exposure to consumer fraud, collect and analyse this information to improve the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of consumer fraud.
If you would like to report receiving a fraudulent invitation or believe you may be a victim of consumer fraud, discuss your participation or speak to someone about your experiences, the please call the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s SCAMwatch hotline on 1300 795 995 (for TTY services call 1300 303 609) or visit www.scamwatch.gov.au
Consumer fraud involves crimes of dishonesty such as forgery, counterfeiting, on-line deception, and theft that are targeted at people who seek to purchase goods and services. Potential victims can be those who use computers and the Internet, older people, those who use professional advisers, and people who use mobile phones. Often individuals suffer financial loss, although banks and companies also suffer financially where they lose business or are required to compensate people who have lost money.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) (2012: np) defined a scam as “a fraudulent invitation, request notification or offer designed to obtain someone’s personal information or money or otherwise obtain a financial benefit by deceptive means”. While the terms fraud and scam are often used interchangeably, scams are generally considered to be a fraud category, with fraud referring to matters involving dishonesty and deception. The term consumer fraud is used in the survey to describe the fraudulent invitations that may be received.
Consumer fraud in Australia
Although estimates have been made of the total cost of fraud and also identity-related fraud, we simply do not know how many consumers are victimised through consumer fraud and how much money they have lost. Many consumers also don’t report their experiences to the police or authorities, which make calculations based on official crime statistics even less reliable.
Extent of consumer fraud in Australia
The ABS (2012) estimated that a total of 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 in 2010-11. This equates to a national victimisation rate for personal fraud of 6.7% of the population aged 15 years and over. This is an increase from the 806,000 victims of personal fraud in 2007 (5.0%). Australians lost $1.4 billion in 2010-11 due to personal fraud. Three in five victims of personal fraud lost money with an average of $2,000 per victim (ABS 2012).
In 2013 the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) received nearly 92,000 scam-related contacts from consumers and small businesses in Australia, which was an increase from the contacts in 2011 (ACCC 2014). Losses reported to the ACCC decreased slightly from the previous year’s losses of $93 million (ACCC 2013) to total nearly $90 million in 2013 (ACCC 2014).
Results from the 2012 ACFT survey found that 95% of participants had received at least one fraudulent invitation in the previous 12 months, and of those that had received an invitation the most common type received related to lottery frauds. The fraud-type that resulted in the greatest number of respondents suffering a financial loss involved fraudulent computer support centre assistance in which bogus advice is given on how to deal with computer problems. Dating and social networking consumer frauds were the least common invitations received, but they were the fraud type most likely to result in a financial loss (Jorna & Hutchings 2013).
Australian Bureau of Statistics 2012, Personal Fraud 2010-2011, Cat 4528.0, Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics. http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4528.0Main+Features12010-2011?OpenDocument
Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) 2014. Targeting scams: Report of the ACCC on scams activity 2013. Canberra: ACCC http://www.accc.gov.au/publications/targeting-scams-report-on-scam-activity/targeting-scams-report-of-the-accc-on-scam-activity-2013
Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) 2013. Targeting scams: Report of the ACCC on scam activity 2012. Canberra: ACCC http://www.accc.gov.au/system/files/Targeting%20scams%202012.pdf
Jorna P & Hutchings A 2013. Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce: Results of the 2012 online consumer fraud survey. Technical Background Paper series no. 56. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology. http://aic.gov.au/publications/current%20series/tbp/41-60/tbp056.html