The Australian Bureau of Statistics has released their Personal Fraud Survey, which was conducted over 12 months in 2010 and 2011. The results are interesting, with some noteworthy trends on identity fraud, identity theft and scams coming out of the figures from this survey. One of particular significance was that almost half of the identity theft victims had no idea how their personal details were obtained.

By Graham Doessel, Founder and CEO of MyCRA Credit Rating Repairs and

This is the second Fraud Survey of its kind for the ABS, with the previous Personal Fraud Survey conducted in 2007.

The ABS Personal Fraud survey shows a total of 1.2 million fraud victims in Australia (aged 15 years and over) were a victim of at least one incident victims of personal fraud in the 12 months prior to interview in 2010-11.

“This equates to a national victimisation rate for personal fraud of 6.7% of the population aged 15 years and over. This is an increase from the 806,000 victims of personal fraud in 2007 (5.0%),” The ABS reports.

“The total financial loss recorded from this fraud in Australia amounted to $1.4 billion. Three in five victims of personal fraud (60% or 713,600 persons) lost money, an average of $2,000 per victim who incurred a financial loss. The median loss for personal fraud was $300,” The ABS reports.

In the 12 months prior to the survey, an estimated 702,100 Australians were victims of identity fraud, or 4.0% of the population aged 15 years and over. This is an increase from the 499,500 victims of identity fraud in 2007 (3.1%).

Credit card fraud was most common, with an estimated 662,300 Australians aged 15 years and over or 3.7% of the population reporting incidents of it.

In the 12 months prior to survey in 2010-11, an estimated 44,700 Australians were victims of identity theft, or 0.3% of the population aged 15 years and over.

According to the survey results, an estimated 6.4 million Australians were exposed to a scam in the 12 months prior to interview, or just over a third of the population. An estimated 514,500 Australians aged 15 years and over (2.9%) responded to a scam in the 12 months prior to survey.

A little more on identity theft…

It has become most likely that should people fall victim to identity theft, that their personal information is used to gain credit or finance in some way. And frighteningly, nearly half of all these victims don’t know how their personal information was obtained. Many (12%) don’t know about identity theft until they perform a credit check or one is performed on them for some reason.

One in five (19.9%) victims of identity theft indicated having their personal information used for applications for a loan or to gain credit in the five years prior to interview in 2010-11, making it the most common way that personal information was used.

Just under a third (31.8%) of identity theft victims discovered that they had been a victim of identity theft via a notification or query from a government agency, 15.1% through a bill from a business or company, and 12.0% through a credit check.

The most common known way that victims’ personal details were obtained in the commission of identity theft was in person (28.3% of victims), followed by email/internet (10.0%), although nearly half of all victims (44.0%) reported that they did not know how their personal details were obtained,” the ABS reports.

Those people in the 25-55 age group were most likely to be victims of identity theft. Those who were gainfully employed were twice as likely to become identity theft victims, as were those earning over $2,000 a week.

How can people go all the way to the credit check before realising they are victims of identity theft?

It depends on the fraud type. In cases of out and out identity theft, fraudsters have secretly gained personal information in some way (the victim may not even be aware of where their personal details have been compromised). The fraudster gains enough information to go about making some form of duplicate identity, and then unbenownst to the victim, they apply for credit in the victim’s name.

In cases where the fraudster has been successful, the fallout can be a nightmare for the identity theft victim. Generally the victim is left with a series of overdue accounts on their credit file. These show as default listings or clearouts will stop the victim from being able to borrow for between 5 (defaults) and 7 (clearout) years.

But just like any other form of credit file inconsistency, it is up to the credit file holder to prove the inconsistency and in the case of the identity theft victim, that it wasn’t them that took out the credit in the first place. This could be really difficult for those people who can’t even prove where their personal information was stolen let alone how.

To find out more about identity theft, visit our identity theft fact page How to Prevent Identity Theft and Keep a Clean Credit Rating or visit the MyCRA website

Image: Victor Habbick /