Australian Institute of Criminology

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AIC Scam Survey now Live on aic.gov.au

Media release

9 January 2014

Criminal fraudsters are continually evolving their methods to try to defraud Australian and New Zealand consumers, and the multiple communication platforms now available provide more opportunities than ever.

The Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) scam survey, run on behalf of the Australasian Consumer Fraud Task Force (ACFT), takes an annual snapshot of scam trends and is now up and running on www.aic.gov.au .

AIC Principal Criminologist, Dr Russell Smith, said: “Criminal scammers can be very inventive and try to target vulnerable people. Overseas organized crime groups are behind many of the mass-marketed scams we experience in Australia and they reap millions of dollars from thousands of unsuspecting victims.

“It’s vitally important for authorities and police to know how the scammers are changing their tactics over time,” Dr Smith said.

The AIC survey is voluntary, confidential, and helps researchers understand both the extent of consumer fraud in Australasia, and any new scams that criminal fraudsters are inflicting on the community.

“If you have been the victim of a scam, received scam invitations or want to help with research into scams then please spend ten minutes completing the annual survey,” Dr Smith said

Over the past seven years the AIC, in partnership with the ACFT, has gathered this information on scams to help improve the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of scam offenders.

The 2012 survey showed:

  • a steep increase in the incidence of phone scams, especially the “computer help-desk scam” since the introduction of VOIP international calling last decade
  • while less common, dating or romance scams proved the most costly - the financial loss due to dating scams alone was over $203,000 from just 16 respondents
  • Scammers were more likely to target sellers of goods over the internet, rather than buyers

“Scam-crime continues to be a serious issue in Australia. The ACCC, an ACFT partner organisation, released its 2013 report showing nearly 84,000 scam-related contacts received by the ACCC in 2012. Financial losses reported to the ACCC totalled more than $93 million, a nine percent increase from 2011,” Dr Smith said.

Over the seven years of the survey, email has been the most prevalent method of delivering scam invitations, but has declined, while online and mobile/SMS contacts have increased substantially. Postal scams have also declined since 2007.

“This reflects the way in which criminals adapt to new technologies and security measures over time,” Dr Smith said.

All responses are treated in the strictest of confidence. The survey can be accessed from the AIC website at: http://aic.gov.au/crime_community/surveys/acft.html The survey will be open until 31st March 2014.

For Comment: Colin Campbell 0418 159 525/ 02 62609244