Identity crime and misuse in Australia: Results of the 2013 online survey. AIC reports. Public policy series 128
Russell G Smith and Alice Hutchings
Australian Institute of Criminology
Identity crime and misuse of personal information affect all sectors in Australia and cost individuals, business and government many millions of dollars annually. In the public sector, the misuse of personal information has been recognised in income tax evasion, customs duty and GST fraud, superannuation fraud, obtaining welfare and health care benefit fraud achieved through the use of false names, immigration fraud and taking English language tests (a key requirement for visas) for someone else. In the private sector, the problem areas have been identified as opening bank accounts in false names to obtain finance, ATM fraud, online and mobile banking and payment card fraud, funds transfer fraud, and securities and investment fraud. In addition to these and other financial crime risks, misuse of identity can also arise in connection with violent crime, such as where individuals have sought to avoid detection and prosecution for murder, robbery and acts of terrorism by pretending to be someone else.
In May 2013, in order to explore the nature and scope of identity crime and misuse in Australia, the Australian Institute of Criminology was commissioned by the Attorney-General's Department to undertake a national survey. This project is one of a series of initiatives that are being implemented as part of the National Identity Security Strategy, Australia's national response to enhancing identity security, which seeks to prevent identity crime and misuse, contribute to national security and facilitate the benefits of the digital economy.
Subsequently, the Australian Institute of Criminology used an online research panel to generate a sample of 5,000 Australians aged 15 years and over to measure personal experiences of identity crime. The survey covered the number of contacts, responses and victimisation incidents experienced, as well as financial loss and other impacts, reporting and response activities, and victims' perceptions of changing levels of risk. Detailed demographic information was also collected that enabled profiles of victims to be created.
This report presents the results of the survey. The findings confirm prior research that has found that identity crime affects a relatively high proportion of Australians who report substantial financial and other impacts. Raising awareness of the risks that individuals face, and gathering sound statistical data on the problem, is an effective way to address the problem. In order to monitor changes from year to year in the nature and extent of identity crime, it is proposed that this survey will be replicated on a regular basis.