Aussies lose NZ$1bn to fraud but little online

Neither the internet nor email the leading methods of fraud in most classes, says study

Australians lost an estimated one billion dollars to fraudsters during a 12-month period between 2006 and 2007 surveyed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The ABS estimates that during this time Australians lost more than NZ$1bn (A$977m) to various kinds of fraud, including identity theft and credit-card fraud.

The study looked at identity theft, credit-card misuse, lotteries, pyramid schemes, phishing and advance-fee fraud (where the victim pays an administration fee to supposedly release a much larger sum of money), as well as a miscellaneous “other fraud”.

However, neither the internet nor email showed up as being the leading methods of fraud in most classes. Only with lotteries and phishing did email and the internet clock up a higher percentage of frauds than those conducted in person, or by phone or post. However, in respect of advance-fee fraud, statistics regarding the channel used were not reported.

This was because the incidence of successful fraud was so low that creating a subdivision would have resulted in too high a margin of error, says ABS spokeswoman Soula Macfarlane.

Fraudsters had the highest success rate with credit-card fraud, with 2.4% of the survey sample reporting at least one incident in the 12 months before being questioned for the survey, which was conducted between July and December 2007.

Identity theft had a victimisation rate of 0.8%, while the rate for lotteries deception was 0.5%, and phishing and pyramid schemes came in at 0.4% each.

Statistics NZ hasn’t conducted a similar survey, nor does it plan to do so, says a spokeswoman. Incidences of fraud are treated as a subset of crime statistics and can be viewed on the Statistics website. However, these only show those incidents reported to the police and are not broken down to the same degree as the Australian figures.

The average sum lost in a single incident of fraud in the Australian survey was A$2,156, but the median was A$450, indicating few relatively large frauds.

Perhaps surprisingly, the more highly educated and higher-income person proved the most gullible (or perhaps such are preferentially targeted).

The overall victimisation rate was 2.6% among those holding a degree, diploma or higher qualification, as against 1.7% for those with no qualifications beyond school-level.

New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia showed up as having a marginally higher proportion of fraud victims than other states and territories.

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