A study by the Australian Bureau of Statistics has revealed that in 2007 half a million people fell victim to some form of fraud, costing the country nearly AU$1 billion.
The survey, released last Friday, found that 453,100 Australians lost on average AU$2,160 each as a result of personal fraud, costing Australia an estimated AU$980 million in 2007. Personal fraud included credit or bank card fraud, identity theft, and a multitude of scams such as lotteries, pyramid schemes, phishing and financial advice.
The study, which involved 14,320 respondents, estimates that of the half a million Australians who fell victim to some form of identity fraud, 383,300 individuals (or 2.4 per cent of all Australians) were victim to credit or bank card fraud.
The ABS asked individuals how much they lost as a result of the last fraud they suffered. Roughly 50 per cent lost under AU$500. Twelve per cent lost between AU$500 and AU$1,000, and 20 per cent lost between AU$1,000 and AU$5,000.
The study also revealed that 25 per cent of victims of credit card fraud did not report the incident either to a bank or to the police. Fraud conducted by email or the internet accounted for 20 per cent of the total card fraud, while 29 per cent was conducted "in person" — a majority (36 per cent) were not aware how it occurred.
Earlier studies, such as that conducted in 2003 by AUSTRAC, which focus on the effect of identity fraud on business have estimated a total cost to Australians of AU$1.1 billion.
However, the ABS figures vary widely to those published by the Australian Payments Clearing Association (APCA), which bases its statistics on credit card (not debit) fraud that is voluntarily reported by banks.
APCA puts annual losses due to credit card fraud committed on Australian-issued credit cards at just AU$90 million for the 2006 to 2007 financial year. It also claims there were just 280,000 instances of credit card fraud during that period.