Predicting online fraud victimisation in Australia


The pervasiveness of the internet and society’s reliance on it for personal and business use has brought with it many benefits. However, for those who seek to defraud others, it has also provided new ways of identifying and targeting potential victims. Online consumer fraud can take a variety of forms and can target anyone. It comes with substantial costs. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) estimates that more than $90m was lost as a result of fraudulent activity in 2017 (ACCC 2018).This report presents the findings of a study conducted by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) with the support and cooperation of the ACCC’s Scamwatch staff. The study sought to determine and quantify the factors that make individuals vulnerable to consumer fraud and that lead to their victimisation.


URLs correct as at March 2024

Anderson K 2013. Consumer fraud in the United States, 2011: The third FTC survey.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016. Personal Fraud, 2014-2015. ABS cat. no. 4528.0. Canberra: ABS.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission 2018. Targeting Scams. Report of the ACCC on scams activity in 2017. Canberra: ACCC

Atkins B & Huang W 2013. A study of social engineering in online frauds. Open Journal of Social Sciences 1(3): 23–32

Bossler AM & Holt TJ 2009. On-line activities, guardianship and malware infection: An examination of Routine Activities Theory. International Journal of Cyber Criminology 3(1): 400–420

Button M, McNaughton Nicholls C, Kerr J & Owen R 2014. Online frauds: Learning from victims why they fall for these scams. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Criminology 47(3): 391–408

Button M, Lewis C & Tapley J 2009. Fraud typologies and victims of fraud: Literature review. London: National Fraud Authority

Chang J 2008. An analysis of advance fee fraud on the internet. Journal of Financial Crime 15(1): 71–81

Chang J & Chong M 2010. Psychological influences in e-mail fraud, Journal of Financial Crime 17(3): 337–350

Cross C 2015. No laughing matter: Blaming the victim of online fraud. International Review of Victimology 21(2): 187–204

Cross C, Smith RG & Richards K 2014. Challenges of responding to online fraud victimisation in Australia. Trends & issues in crime and criminal justice no. 474.

Emami C, Smith RG & Jorna P forthcoming. Individual differences in online fraud victimisation in Australia. Research Report. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology.

Holt TJ & Bossler AM 2014. An assessment of the current state of cybercrime scholarship. Deviant Behavior 35: 20–40

Holtfreter K, Reisig M & Pratt T 2008. Low self-control, routine activities, and fraud victimization. Criminology 46: 189–220

Jorna 2016. The relationship between age and consumer fraud victimisation. Trends & issues in crime and criminal justice no. 519. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology.

Lee J & Soberon-Ferrer H 1997. Consumer vulnerability to fraud: influencing factors. Journal of Consumer Affairs 31(1): 70–89

Nankervis D 2014. Operation Disrepair finds South Australians lost more than $2 million in 4261 transactions to foreign scams. The Advertiser, 3 Mar.[1]australians-lost-more-than-2-million-in-4261-transactions-to-foreign-scams/news-story/519962b331e753cf9c2 1a9e2db8d6c8a

Nhan J, Kinkade P & Burns R 2009. Finding a pot of gold at the end of an internet rainbow: Further examination of fraudulent email solicitation. International Journal of Cyber Criminology 3(1): 452–475

Office of Fair Trading (OFT) 2009. The psychology of scams: Provoking and committing errors of judgement. London: OFT

Pearce N 2016. Analysis of matched case-control studies. The BMJ: 2016 352:i969.

Pratt T, Holtfreter K & Reisig M 2010. Routine online activity and internet fraud targeting: Extending the generality of Routine Activity Theory. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 47(3): 267–296

Reisig MD, Pratt TC & Holtfreter K 2009. Perceived risk of internet theft victimisation: Examining the effects of social vulnerability and financial impulsivity. Criminal Justice and Behavior 36: 369–384

Ross S & Smith RG 2011. Risk factors for advance fee fraud victimisation. Trends & issues in crime and criminal justice no. 420. Canberra: AIC.

Shadel D, Pak K & Sauer J 2014. Caught in the scammer’s net: Risk factors that may lead to becoming an internet fraud victim.

Stay Smart Online 2018. Why this matters to you. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.

Titus RM & Gover AR 2001. Personal fraud: The victims and the scams. Crime Prevention Studies 12: 133–151

Western Australia Department of Commerce 2014. Project Sunbird.

Whitty M 2017. Do you love me? Psychological characteristics of romance scam victims. Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking 21(2): 105–109