AIC cyberfraud study highlights impact on victims
28 August 2011
Ministerial media release
Older people are much more vulnerable to cyberfraud scams, with the over 55 age group accounting for four out of 10 victims, a study released today by the Australian Institute of Criminology has found.
The AIC, in collaboration with Victoria Police and the Melbourne University School of Social and Political Sciences, surveyed 202 Victorians who had sent money to Nigeria to determine why they had responded to unsolicited contact and the impact of that contact on their lives.
Minister for Home Affairs and Justice Brendan O'Connor said that many victims were too embarrassed to report the fraud to authorities, and the survey findings would assist in developing strategies to educate people about scams and prevent fraud from taking place.
Most types of consumer fraud occurs through so-called advance fee techniques in which individuals are tricked into paying money - an advance fee - upfront in order to secure an anticipated financial or other benefit at a later date.
The survey found that 66 per cent of victims had first been approached by email, with 35 per cent responding to web based dating sites. Other scams started by post.
Findings also included:
- Older people were more vulnerable, despite their age group being statistically less likely to use the Internet.
- Approximately three quarters of victims had sent money to offenders on more than one occasion and more than 40 per cent had sent money five or more times.
- Totals scammed ranged from $100 to $120,000. The average amount lost per victim was $12,000.
- Around 80 per cent of victims nominated their savings as the source of their funds, but 13 per cent took out personal loans, and five per cent had mortgaged property to send money.
- Around 43 per cent of victims reported emotional trauma, with 12 per cent reporting marital repercussions.
- Dating scams were especially costly to the victims, with many frauds launched from social networking and online dating sites. Victims reported that they were in regular contact with the perpetrators, with three respondents stating they had more than 200 contacts with the offenders.
- Fraudsters often manipulated altruism to achieve their frauds, which is difficult to counter as people wanted to make a positive gesture to a charity or a relationship.
- 27 per cent of respondents were too embarrassed to report the crime to authorities; 20 per cent believed the police would not locate the offender; and a small number of victims feared for their safety.
The findings assist in developing prevention strategies, and raise the issue of further research into under-reporting of fraud.
The Gillard Government has undertaken a number of steps to combat cybercrime and online fraud.
- In 2010 the Government passed new laws to combat identity crime and allow people who had been the victim of identity crime (including online theft) to obtain a certificate of identification from a magistrate in order to re-establish their identity.
- The Government has introduced the Cybercrime Legislation Amendment Bill 2011 which will facilitate Australia's participation in the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime the only binding international treaty on cybercrime.
SCAMwatch has been established to allow people to report scams and frauds (www.scamwatch.gov.au).
If the offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. I urge all Australians to think before they provide money to people they have not met, MrO'Connor said.
Media contact: Maria Hawthorne
AIC contact: Colin Campbell 0418 159 525