Australian Institute of Criminology

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Method

Research design

This research employed a quantitative, cross-sectional survey design, examining identity crime and misuse within the sample at one point in time. This methodology replicated a similar study that was completed in 2013. The operational definition of identity crime and misuse was the use of personal information without permission. This included obtaining or using personal information without permission, pretending to be someone else or to carry out a business in someone else’s name without their permission, or other types of activities or transactions. This definition excluded the use of personal information for direct marketing, even if this was done without permission. For this research, personal information was defined as: name, address, date of birth, place of birth, gender, driver’s licence information, passport information, Medicare information, biometric information (eg fingerprint), signature, bank account information, credit or debit card information, passport, PIN, TFN, HIN, computer and/or other online usernames and passwords, student number and other types of personal information.

A range of ethical issues was raised with this research design, as well as a number of limitations to the methodology. These are similar to those identified in the previous year’s survey. For further details regarding these issues, see Smith and Hutchings (2014).

Survey questions

The survey contained a mixture of closed-response and open-ended questions on the following topics:

  • perceptions of the seriousness of misuse of personal information and how risks will change over the next 12 months;
  • experience of misuse of personal information at any time in the past and over the preceding 12 months;
  • methods of victimisation in the most serious occasion in the preceding 12 months;
  • actual financial losses, funds recovered and other consequences of victimisation;
  • awareness of the availability of court victimisation certificates;
  • reporting misuse of personal information;
  • behavioural changes arising from misuse of personal information; and
  • demographic and other characteristics of the sample including age, gender, place of normal residence, income, language spoken at home, Indigenous background and computer usage.

These questions largely replicated those of the previous study in 2013 (Smith & Hutchings 2014) to allow for direct comparisons between the two years.

The questions spanned a number of reference periods. These included participants’ current circumstances (eg place of normal residence, age and income), their lifetime experiences of identity crime and misuse, as well as identity crime and misuse they had experienced in the previous 12 months. The survey was delivered over two weeks in May 2014.

The survey, which had 23 questions in total, took approximately 10 minutes to complete. No identifying information was requested from respondents. A copy of the online questionnaire is attached at Appendix 1.

Sampling

The survey was administered to an online survey panel by i-Link Research Solutions, an external provider. The sample consisted of 5,000 Australians aged 15 years and over who had internet access and who had registered with the online survey panel provider. The sampling frame and survey hosting were undertaken by i-Link Research Solutions, with the de-identified data provided to the AIC for analysis and reporting.

Potential respondents were randomly selected and invited to participate in the survey using quotas—namely, location, age and gender. Respondents were stratified across location, so that there was an oversampling in smaller states and territories, and under-sampling of the larger states compared with their representation in the Australian population aged 15 years and over. Age and gender were used as qualifying variables, so that the respondents were nationally representative according to ABS (2014) census data at 31 December 2013. Sampling was completed once the quotas had been met and a sample size of 5,000 participants had been obtained.

Participants received an incentive in exchange for completing the survey. Participants were able to select the type of reward they wished to receive from the range of incentives offered by the external provider. Examples of the incentives offered by the provider included:

  • instant member reward points (accumulated to redeem gifts—such as Caltex/Coles vouchers);
  • chance to win $50,000 prize draw quarterly;
  • donate rewards to an affiliated charity; and
  • monthly community member competitions/prizes and draws.

Weighting of data

Data were weighted by location to represent the spread of the population in Australia. ABS (2014) data estimating the 31 December 2013 resident population by greater capital city and by state and territory were used to develop the weighting matrix for the sample data. The process of weighting involved the application of a formula to data provided by each respondent to make each response proportionate in relation to the broader population from which the sample was derived. For example, respondents in Sydney made up 11 percent of the sample; however, this location contains 20.5 percent of the Australian population (ABS 2014). The actual weighting for each location is shown in Table 1. All results refer to weighted data, unless otherwise specifically noted.

The results have not, however, been weighted to indicate national estimates of prevalence and financial loss that would have been experienced had the entire Australian population aged 15 years and over been surveyed, as the sampling frame was insufficiently robust to permit such estimations to be undertaken.

Analysis

The analysis presented in this report is largely descriptive in nature, although appropriate tests for statistical significance are presented where bivariate analyses have been undertaken. The commentary with the analysis provides comparisons with the previous survey completed in 2013. It should be noted that the differences between the two surveys have not been tested for statistical significance and it is possible that some of the differences will fall within the margins of sampling error for the two surveys, meaning the observed differences may be a function of the survey methodology, rather than true differences in the population.

In addition, the samples obtained in 2013 and 2014 are not entirely independent. Of the 5,000 respondents in 2014, 1,008 reported misuse of their personal information in the preceding 12 months. Of these, 15.7 percent had completed the AIC’s survey in September 2013. In terms of reported victimisation in the preceding 12 months, therefore, an overlap of four months was present, between May 2013 and September 2013, when those who completed both surveys could have reported the same victimisation events. It was not known, however, precisely how many victims in 2014 were the same individuals as in 2013.