Defining Identity Crime

Identity crime is defined by the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis (AUSTRAC) Proof of Identity Steering Committee as:

  • A generic term to describe activities/offences in which a perpetrator uses a fabricated identity; a manipulated identity; or a stolen/assumed identity to facilitate the commission of a crime/s

Identity Theft is defined as:

  • The theft or assumption of a pre-existing identity (or significant part thereof), with or without consent and whether, in the case of an individual, the person is living or deceased
How Identity Crime occurs

There are numerous ways in which offenders are able to facilitate identity theft of an individual or bodies corporate and subsequently fabricate and manipulate that identity, including:

  • Theft of mail articles
  • Theft of wallets, bags and purses
  • Skimming of credit and debit cards via ATMs or EFTPOS terminals
  • Internet scams including phishing emails or spoofing sites designed to replicate banking and payment sites
  • Remote access scams giving access to a computer
  • Malicious computer programs such as malware or spyware
  • Ransomware
  • Telemarketing scams
  • Hacking of websites or business servers containing personal information databases
  • Fake online social media profiles

The use of stolen, fabricated or manipulated identities to commit or enable crime has been enhanced by the expansion of new technologies and change in online behaviour.

Identity Theft is organised crime. It is used to facilitate fraud offences but also used for terrorism, drug importation, people smuggling and money laundering.

Cost to Australia

Recent estimates by the Commonwealth Attorney General’s Department indicate that identity crime costs Australia upwards of $1.6 billion per year, with the majority ($900m) lost by individuals through credit card fraud, identity theft and scams.

Identity crime continues to be a key enabler of serious and organised crime, which in turn costs Australia around $15 billion annually (source: AFP Identity Crime website)

Extent of Identity Theft

The extent of identity theft is hard to quantify as most victims do not know they are victims until their personal information has already been used, if at all. With increasing levels of fraud, financial institutions have become more experienced in identifying fraud, and can terminate fraudulent transactions often before the victim realises they are a victim.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) ‘the scale and impact of personal fraud is hard to measure, due to issues of definition, awareness of victimisation, low reporting rates and inconsistent data recording practices among agencies that detect or deal with these incidents”.

The ABS conducted a national survey from July 2014 to June 2015 about Personal Fraud which covered Identity Theft.

  • In that 12 month period, an estimated 126,300 persons in Australia were victims of identity theft (or 0.7% of the population aged 15 and over).
  • The majority of persons who experienced identity theft experienced a single incident only (103,400 or 82%)

The credit agency VEDA conducted a similar survey in 2015 claiming that 17% of Australians were the victim of identity theft; however the validity of this result is questioned due to a commercial interest by the company.

New South Wales
  • NSW had the highest number of identity theft incidents over the past 5 years of any state (NSW has the highest population of any state)
  • 53% of incidents were reported (the Australian average is 51%)
Who experienced Identity Theft?
  • Persons aged 25 to 34 were most likely to experience identity theft (1.0% or 33,700 persons in that age group) whilst persons aged 55 years and over were the least likely (0.4% or 25,900 persons in that age group).
  • This demographic was supported by the VEDA survey
How identity was stolen
  • Approximately one quarter of victims had their identity stolen over the internet
  • Approximately one quarter of victims were not aware of how their information was stolen
How victims found out about their identity theft
  • 25% became aware after receiving a notification or query from a government agency or authority
  • 12% became aware after receiving a bill from a business or company
Reporting Identity Crime
  • 51% (or 172,300) of all persons who experienced Identity Theft in the five years prior to the ABS survey reported the most recent incident to an authority
  • Only 55,200 persons said they reported the incident to police.
  • That accounts to only 16% of incidents reported to police

Approximately 50% of victims reported that they had changed their behaviour as a result of identity theft including:

  • Becoming more careful or aware
  • Changing credit card details
  • Changing email address
  • Changing payment methods
  • Becoming more apprehensive or withdrawn
  • Changing or installing internet security
What can you do if you're victim of identity crime:

If you've been a victim of Identity theft, contact police on 131 444 and make a report.

You should also contact your financial institution.

IDCARE is Australia and New Zealand’s national identity & cyber support service. Our service is the only one of its type in the world. We’ve helped thousands of Australians and New Zealand individuals and organisations reduce the harm they experience from the compromise and misuse of their identity information by providing effective response and mitigation.

Visit www.idcare.org for more information