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The changing face of fraud

Media Release

06 May 1999

Media release from Senator, the Hon Amanda Vanstone, Minister for Justice and Customs

The technologies which are enhancing the delivery of government services and information are also creating new opportunities for criminals to misappropriate government property and funds. This is one of the principal findings of a new report from the Australian Institute of Criminology, Defrauding Governments in the Twenty-first Century, written by Research Analyst Dr Russell Smith. The report was released today by the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator the Hon. Amanda Vanstone.

"The report's findings show why governments need to be concerned about computer based fraud," Senator Vanstone said. "The use of advanced communications and information technology by government is increasing, and the future will see more services provided online.

"A recent survey of eleven government agencies reveals that 36 per cent reported misuse of their computer systems, with 45 per cent reporting external attacks through remote access computer systems.

"New forms of fraud are emerging as government benefits programs continue to be administered electronically, and with the use of new technologies like Smart Cards.

Recently, Centrelink employees allegedly credited themselves with Electronic Benefit Transfer Cards, using both legitimate and false identities, to obtain illegal cash payments.

"Information theft is also key area of criminal activity for governments. In South Australia, charges were laid against a Department of Social Security employee who removed and sold a large quantity of records from the Department's database.

"The computer abuse reported most frequently by government agencies related to damage or unauthorised access to, or copying of, data and programs.

"The Commonwealth takes fraud very seriously. To ensure that the Commonwealth is ready for the fraud of the twenty first century I am currently reviewing the Commonwealth's fraud control policy to strengthen its provisions.

"I will be introducing a Bill to simplify and update the Commonwealth's criminal offences of fraud and theft later this year. The Bill will be based on the Model Criminal Code, which the Federal Government has been developing in cooperation with States and Territory Governments. It is hoped the new fraud and theft offences will lead to consistent offences throughout Australia because fraudsters operate without regard for boundaries."