Each year since 2007, the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) has collected information on consumer scams by conducting an online survey of Australians who have received scam invitations during the preceding 12 months. The research is conducted on behalf of the Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce (ACFT), which comprises 22 government regulatory agencies and departments in Australia and New Zealand who work alongside private sector, community and non-government partners to prevent fraud of this nature. The annual survey seeks to obtain a snapshot of the public’s exposure to consumer scams, to assess the range of ways in which scams can affect victims and their families, to determine how victims respond and to identify emerging typologies, and look at issues that could be used to inform fraud prevention initiatives. Survey respondents are not representative of the whole Australian population, as the sample is made up of only those individuals who choose to opt in; although in 2013, over 1,000 people completed the survey with good levels of representation from all states and territories, and other demographic categories.
This report presents the results of the 2013 survey conducted in conjunction with the 2013 National Consumer Fraud Week campaign, ‘Outsmart the scammers’, which was aimed at promoting consumer awareness of scams related to shopping online. Australians are increasingly buying goods and services online, taking advantage of the speed, convenience and the often greater choice that the internet can offer. Scammers have taken advantage of this trend to target consumers for involvement in scams. Online shopping awareness campaigns target both buyers and sellers to educate the public on reducing the risks of being scammed (ScamWATCH 2013).
As in previous years, a high proportion of respondents to the survey had received a scam invitation (97%), with just over a third of the respondents responding to the scam invitation in some way. Last year, four percent of respondents reported having lost money to a scam, with the median amount of money reported as being lost per incident was $2,150—just over $1,110,000 lost in total. Fraudulent lottery and prizes wins were the most prevalent scam type experienced by respondents in 2013. While email remained the most commonly used method by which scams were delivered, consistent with previous years, scams delivered via landline and mobile telephones continued to increase.
This report also includes some additional information on relationship scams; that is, romance or dating scam invitations received by scammers. Relationship scams are the subject of the 2014 consumer fraud awareness week held in June 2014. The AIC scam survey has found in previous years that scams involving dating or romance-type scenarios are not as widely received by respondents as other scam types, although they are generally the type of scam that causes the largest financial losses to victims.